Friday, July 20, 2007

New Berlin Should Lead On Great Lakes Compact Approval

Now that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has moved New Berlin's application for a Lake Michigan diversion to the discussion phase- - with final approval contingent on many factors that could take months or a year or more to iron out - - New Berlin should be taking the lead in the legislature and throughout Southeastern Wisconsin in advocacy for the Compact's adoption.

New Berlin's Mayor, Jack Chiovatero, seems to understand that, given his remarks to the business publication Daily Reporter.

With a Compact in place, New Berlin's application and further approvals from the DNR will have the Compact's legal and procedural rules governing Wisconsin's review of New Berlin's diversion request.

The other seven states in the Great Lakes region, then, are more likely to consider the DNR and New Berlin approach to a diversion as acceptable - - because the Compact provides a fair and consistent framework that all the Great Lakes states can follow.

Plus: a working Compact protects Wisconsin from water grabs by other states and communities faraway - - something that New Berlin's very own state senator, Mary Lazich, just can't seem to grasp.

She mistakes protections for a true, two-nation, eight-state regional resource - - and also one of the planet's most precious sources of fresh water - - as somehow bad for New Berlin and Waukesha County, though they are surely part of the Great Lakes region, and the planet, too.

Lazich is among those in the legislature slowing up Wisconsin's approval of the Compact, even though her city wants to be the first to receive diverted water since the Compact was approved by the eight Great Lakes governors in 2005 and moved to their legislatures for ratification and state-by-state implementation.

How odd and contradictory is that?

Chiovatero told the Shepherd-Express that Lazich's obstructionism was a problem for New Berlin.

Wrote the Milwaukee weekly paper's Dennis Shook, a long-time reporter in Waukesha County and an expert on politics there:

"Chiovatero, who has meetings this week with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to discuss water access details, said he sees Lazich as the major obstacle to solving the city's water woes.

"These are her people ... she lives here," Chiovatero said of Lazich, who could not be reached for comment.

"She has Lake Michigan water herself and she's enjoying it. So let everybody else [enjoy] it. This is just a political thing going on that has me upset," he said of her opposition to the compact."

Chiovatero seems also to understand that the sequence to win Great Lakes water for a Waukesha Count community should be: Compact first, then final diversion application review, and if everything is OK in those processes, then a negotiation and deal with a water seller and treatment system to handle the logistics and finances of both a water sale and a safe and feasible return flow.

That's what the Compact is all about - - on behalf of the entire Great Lakes ecosystem - - rules, standards, procedures, whether you're in New Berlin or New York.

On the other hand, if it looks like the DNR and Wisconsin are jumping the procedural gun on behalf of a Wisconsin community - - New Berlin or any other city - - another Great Lakes state could sue Wisconsin. Chiovatero gets that, too, and he, unlike Lazich, grasps that'd be a bad thing.

As the Daily Reporter said:

"Chiovatero is also pulling for the compact to be approved soon, as it is his belief that New Berlin would qualify for the diversion either way as a straddling community.

“I think the governor’s office feels for us,” Chiovatero said.

“They know we should get the water, but they don’t want to break the rules and upset other states, and I don’t want them to either. The last thing I want is to get approval and then have to fight lawsuits, because that will only delay us getting the water. The DNR is being sensitive to that.”

Conclusion: Give Chiovatero credit for clarity, and for supporting the Compact.

And let's see more leadership from the very part of the state that seems to want Lake Michigan water, but has done little to approve and implement the reasonable rules and standards that took negotiators five years to write in the proposed Compact.

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