Monday, September 13, 2010

Water, Highway Decisions/Spending Will Fuel Waukesha Sprawl

Waukesha County, where small-government, fiscally-conservative politics are said to be the norm, is about to absorb multiple government actions and spending that will direct where population expansion - - thus construction, development, traffic and demands for taxpayer-paid services - - will take place.

The drivers of this process will be a) expanded water service from a possible Lake Michigan diversion (estimated cost, $164 million), and b) highway expansion in the form of the West Waukesha Bypass (about $50 million expected).

One arm of government, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission has determined that another arm of government, the Waukesha Water Utility, can expand its service territory to the south and west and add a land mass of 17.4 square miles, or about 80%, to the current service territory to which it could pipe Lake Michigan water.

Take a look at the expanded water service territory map - - developable land, as mapped by SEWRPC, is in orange, and the squiggly blue line is the existing water service boundary (yes, I know, there are too many blues in the map...)

http://dailyreporter.com/files/2010/02/waterdraft.jpg

The Journal Sentinel has a nice version of the map that more clearly shows the expanded and current service territories, here.

Some residents in the bordering, more rural Town of Waukesha are not happy with the Bypass - - project area map here - - or the prospect of diverted Lake Michigan water being offered in the town, but the state, county and city - - bigger governments, along with the unelected SEWRPC - - are calling the shots that will push development out from the City of Waukesha into open space and the smaller communities.

Bypass highway options would run north/south between I-94 and State Highway 59. A final route decision is pending and there will be a public meeting Wednesday night in Waukesha to begin to pare down the options; basically the Bypass will go somewhere north/south - - again the Bypass map is here - - through the western third of the expanded water service territory.

So highway expansion will serve the added water service territory, and vice-versa.

Permission to expand the Waukesha Water service territory, as defined by SEWRPC, has been added to that city's application for a Lake Michigan diversion.

The application, approved by the Waukesha Common Council in April, has been in the hands of the the state government - - the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, since June - - but a formal review of the application has not begun.

The other seven Great Lakes states would have to approve the application should the DNR eventually green-light it, leaving Waukesha free to pursue a Lake Michigan water sales agreement after negotiations with the three big cities to the East: Milwaukee - - the preferred provider - - Racine, or Oak Creek.

You might want to remember the many units of government involved in the growth and definition of the City and County of Waukesha the next time you hear someone saying that development and population patterns in Southeastern Wisconsin are dictated by personal choice.

Nope: Even in Waukesha County, big government, backed by big bucks, is calling the tune.

An additional note: CH2M Hill is now the water supply/diversion application consultant for the Waukesha Water Utility and also the bypass consultant for Waukesha County, the road project's eventual manager.


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