It took five years, requests from organizations like Waukesha County and $1 million - - about a quarter of which was diverted to SEWRPC in 2004 from deed registration fees from Milwaukee County to get it all financed and finished - - but the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission finally approved at its Wednesday meeting a set of water supply recommendations that include piping Lake Michigan water to Waukesha.
Waukesha is hailing the SEWRPC action, but take that with a grain of salt, as I'll explain.
SEWRPC is also recommending that Waukesha be allowed to ship some of the diverted water to a new service territory that is 80% larger in acreage than what it supplies now - - and it will need all the new customers it can get to help finance the possible diversion, should it happen, as it carries a minimum estimated cost of $164 million.
Waukesha will build up the SEWRPC water report adopted Wednesday as some sort of imperative etched in stone, a directive to water regulators in Wisconsin - - who are still sitting on the city's diversion application paperwork and labeling it after eight months, "deficient" - - and a message also to the other Great Lakes states, when, in fact, the water study recommendations, like all SEWRPC findings, are recommendations only.
And can be ignored - - like its recommendations for ag land or environmental corridor preservation in Waukesha County and elsewhere.
As SEWRPC Executive Director Emeritus Kurt Bauer - - chairman also of the water advisory committee - - himself recounted in a 2007 posting on this blog when discussing the loss of open space SEWRPC had recommended in the region for preservation.
From my interview with him in that posting:
"Pabst Farms was at one time in a prime agricultural area. If the [SEWRPC] Regional Land Use Plan had been followed, it [Pabst Farms] would not have been given over for development...it should have been kept in agricultural, open use."
And as to agriculture in Waukesha County, which Bauer said was a worldwide cattle provider as late as the 1960's?
"Agriculture is pretty much gone there," he said.
Bauer said the key to containing sprawl is land use decision-making at the front end of the planning and development processes because "land use is the key to all these problems that we don't address" - - but he said that residential developers across the region continue to convert open land, with commercial and industrial land following.
"The containment of sprawl: [SEWRPC] has been preaching against it for forty years, but it's crying in the wilderness."
"Pabst Farms is a big change. You can see it," Bauer said.
"But a lot of these changes occur in small increments. What do the Chinese say? 'It's the death by a thousand cuts.'"