State Rep. Jeff Stone, (R-Greendale), and Rich Meeusen, the CEO of water-industry leader Badger Meter had written a Journal Sentinel op-ed two weeks ago arguing that a regional water authority, or RWA should be created to push water and aid growth for Waukesha and elsewhere in Southeastern Wisconsin.
Meeusen and Stone focused on:
...resolving the question of how to provide water to the growing community of Waukesha and the economic engine it has become...
The RWA would create economies of scale that would benefit customers in all the communities, and a permanent long-term solution would create a positive environment for economic development moving forward...
We can establish a permanent solution for water service in the region, creating a stable environment for economic development...and we would invite all the mayors of Oak Creek, Waukesha, Franklin and any other impacted communities to come together with us to solve this issue and move our region forward together with shared benefits for all our citizens.Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has dissected the Stone-Meeusen proposal with a Journal Sentinel response op-ed today.
Barrett focuses on the Great Lakes Compact - - the 2008 water management and conservation agreement protecting a world-class water resource. The Compact is cooperative with Canada and two of its provinces; Compact standards, goals and procedures are now embedded in US and eight states' laws, including Wisconsin's, from Minnesota to New York State.
In other words, its reach and purposes extend far beyond the mini-region Stone and Meeusen are addressing.
This "regional" approach however breaks down when it is held up to the basic requirements of the Great Lakes compact....In addition to reminding Stone and Meeusen that the Great Lakes Compact is not a blueprint for water-driven development, there's a glaring mistake in their op-ed that suggests they are relatively unfamiliar with the Compact, or how it works.
The compact makes it clear that diversions outside the basin are generally prohibited.
I have stated many times that I am willing to negotiate an agreement to sell safe, affordable water to the City of Waukesha for use in its current service area. What I am not willing to do is violate the Great Lakes compact by selling Lake Michigan water to communities within Waukesha's proposed expanded service area that have not demonstrated potable water needs.
In the second sentence of their op-ed's opening paragraph, Stone and Meeusen say:
It is unfortunate for everyone in the region that we have not yet found a way to solve the issue of providing Lake Michigan water to one of the straddling communities that, under the Great Lakes compact, may be entitled to such water.No: Under the Compact, Waukesha is not a "straddling community."
Under the Compact, Waukesha is a community in a "straddling county."
It's a big difference, legally and procedurally.
Were Waukesha a straddling community that actually touched the boundary of the Great Lakes basin, its diversion application under the Compact would need only an approval from the State of Wisconsin. No other state could veto it.
That the simpler process which allowed the City of New Berlin, a true straddling community, to get its diversion plan approved by the DNR a few years ago, with Milwaukee the designated seller.
But as a community completely outside the Great Lakes basin - - eligible to apply for a diversion only because the Waukesha County line straddles the basin boundary (no water can be diverted to a county that does not touch the basin boundary) - - the City of Waukesha's diversion application is subject under the Compact to a more rigorous review, and needs, for implementation, the unanimous approval of all eight Great Lakes states.
If Waukesha were only a straddling community - - as was New Berlin - - under the Compact, Waukesha Water Utility piping contractors would no doubt already be laying pipe, as the Waukesha application was written two-and-a-half years ago.
With Waukesha's high-profile diversion application already on the table and a matter of controversy, people proposing an RWA should do their homework about the Compact before suggesting another vehicle to tap the Great Lakes.