Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Media Black Out MMSD/Great Lakes Initiative

It has been more than two months since the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District entered the fray over Great Lakes water diversion policy, but the traditional media have not taken note.

Readers of this blog are thus one step ahead, as an April 23rd posting explained that the MMSD had approved a moratorium on new sewer extensions outside of the Lake Michigan basin boundary (the subcontinental divide) until the State of Wisconsin adopts pending amendments to the Great Lakes Compact.

All eight Great Lakes states, and the US Congress, must adopt closely similar, if not identical, Compact amending language for the revised international agreement to go into effect.

(Readers of this blog have also been provided with the only reporting on New Berlin's revised application for a Lake Michigan diversion).

The Compact amendments establish the first-ever formal set of rules and procedures governing diversion applications and approvals - - including demonstration of absolute need, proof of water conservation programs and pledges by the applicant communitites of a return flow of diverted water to the Great Lakes basin to sustain Great Lakes water levels.

The amended Compact, however, does not address exactly where that return flow should be aimed, or how it would be financed. Those are big questions, and explain why the MMSD has decided to weigh in.

With consideration of the Compact amendments stalled in a state legislative study committee, in large measure over objections to some of the proposed amendments by political and business leaders in Waukesha County, the MMSD's action was both a carrot and stick to Waukesha County leaders.

Now some of those leaders are objecting to MMSD's stick, records show.

City of Muskego Mayor John Johnson has written to MMSD, calling the moratorium unfair to his city, as well as to the cities of New Berlin and Franklin, he says.

Johnson says the Commission's action would have "a negative effect on economic growth," and violate the intent of the region's cooperative "Milwaukee 7" initiative.

Tht is because infrastructure investments, master plans or private developers' plans beyond the subcontinental divide in Muskego and the other communities are based on the expectation of MMSD sewer extensions, Johnson argued.

Johnson asks that the MMSD reconsider the moratorium, which passed by a commission vote on February 26th.

MMSD already has obvious and costly capacity problems during storms.

And it is concerned with having to pay for the treatment of greater levels of waste water coming from diverting communities, or to face riverbank or wetlands improvement costs that could come if faster development upstream that followed diversions led to increased downstream flooding.

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