The Journal Sentinel offers an editorial calling for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to do a thorough, fact-based review of Waukesha's application for a diversion of Great Lakes water.
No argument there.
But the editorial wishes for something that cannot possible take place:
The review should focus on issues of science, technology and economics - and not on political matters.That is because every agency and participant on staff or in management who is called upon to weigh in on the application's merits, and its ultimate failure, success or implementation - - the DNR, The Waukesha City Mayor, Common Council, and Water Utility, and similar agencies and officials in three potential water-selling lakefront cities, and the Town of Waukesha, with its elected officials and direct, citizen-democracy, and seven other Great Lakes states' regulatory agencies parallel to the Wisconsin DNR, and all eight Great Lakes Governors - - each and everyone of these organizations and key members is either an elected official or reports to one.
And don't forget that there will be formal consulting input inserted into the process by non-voting governmental bodies in two Canadian provinces and by First Nation tribes, too.
That means thousands of political calculations and decisions will be made throughout a years-long politicized process because the authority over these waters is shared across a giant region where the Great Lakes water resources themselves are mutually managed and 'owned.'
This all began years ago with intensive politicking that created the Great Lakes Compact under which Waukesha's precedent-setting application has been produced - - and, in fact, there wouldn't even be a Waukesha application eligible for review without the active and successful lobbying (politics in action) by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle's representatives to persuade negotiators from Minnesota to New York State to create a specific diversion exemption under which a community that is entirely outside of the Great Lakes basin - - like Waukesha - - could ask for a diversion in the first place.
Of course, this is a political process, and while the newspaper is right to urge the DNR to be thorough and scientific (read: fair) about its review there will be politics galore surrounding the application as it moves forward, or stop.
That's because what's at stake is who gets to use a limited and valuable resource held in trust for so many competing groups.