Friday, August 24, 2007

As Predicted, SEWRPC Recommends Wide Use of Diverted Lake Michigan Water

As predicted on this blog, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, (SEWRPC), has begun to float out its solutions to the region's water supply issues as it has chosen to define them, and recommended potential diversions from Lake Michigan to suburbs in counties across the region, according to documents quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Put this together with the cavalier attitude over at the DNR about potential Lake Michigan pollution by an oil company, and you can see that the powers-that-be in Wisconsin - - even the so-called regulators - - are setting the public interest in water aside in favor of industry and land development.

The million-dollar water supply study upon which these recommendations are based has been classic SEWRPC theater, not unlike the study a few years ago that considered highway options, but in the end recommended what everyone knew would be the outcome - - an expanded regional freeway system.

In that case, the state Transportation Department lapped up the recommendations - - after all, it had paid SEWRPC to do the study - - and the state is dutifully following through with spiffier interchanges and 127 miles of new freeway lanes, with more sprawl induced, and soon, further aided by a torrent of fresh water for development from Lake Michigan.

In the water study case, the recommendation for wide use of Lake Michigan water - - one of four possible paths to great water supplies and the one probably most favored by the pro-growth, suburban mindset - - was telegraphed further by the heavy representation on the advisory committee of suburban members.

When it comes to make a final recommendation among alternatives, you can put your money on a recommendation that calls for substantial diversions to address regional water supply issues.

The deck was stacked that way from the beginning.

Adding to that probability: SEWRPC hired as the study's lead consultant the firm of Ruekert & Mielke, the same consulting firm, using the same technical experts, that prepared New Berlin's Lake Michigan diversion application.

With recommendations to divert water to communities far from those most-often mentioned to date (New Berlin and Waukesha), SEWRPC is setting the table tor a recommended structural solution - - the creation of a regional water authority which could consolidate diversion applications and stage-manage development across the region.

Such an agency would become the most powerful political body in the region, directing water and thus controlling economic growth in the most populous region in Wisconsin.

And if the regional water authority's governance matches the SEWRPC model - - seven counties dominated by the suburbs and exurbs at the expense of cities and their low-income residents - - the result will be an even greater disparity in population , employment and wealth between under-represented cities in Milwaukee and Racine Counties and the outlying portions of Walworth, Kenosha, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington Counties.

Furthermore, laying the groundwork for multiple and widespread diversions will not go over well in the Great Lakes region, where a pending agreement among the states - - the Great Lakes Compact - - invisions diversions as the rare exception, not the coupon clipping proposed by SEWRPC.

In the very early stages of the water supply advisory committee's deliberations, the committee decided not to specifically incorporate as a study parameter the legal costs that could be associated with controversial diversion applications.

If the committee and full SEWRPC commission adopts the big-diversions-solution, decades-long litigation, regional and international disputes are sure to follow.

And they call this regional planning?

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