Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Milwaukee Common Council Approves Limitations On Quick Water Sales To Suburbs

By a vote of 13-1, Milwaukee's Common Council approved a policy that bars any water sale to a suburb outside the Great Lakes basin (read: New Berlin, Waukesha, et al) until the Wisconsin legislature adopts the pending Great Lakes Compact.

A note about the overwhelming vote is at the bottom of this summary, here.

This outcome was not unexpected: the Council and Mayor Tom Barrett want the legislature to put the Compact's rules, standards and conservation goals into place in our state so that water sales are conducted with guidelines and transparent processes.

Or conducted similarly in other states, using pre-Compact ratification Wisconsin sales as an excuse to move water outside the basin in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and elsewhere in the region.

At Wisconsin's expense. That's what a Compact is all about.

It's a minimal expectation, endorsed by the Wisconsin Attorney General in a formal opinion now nearly a year old, but continually ignored by major media in Wisconsin, including the Journal Sentinel, which today editorially called on the Milwaukee Common Council to reject the resolution.

Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes are a shared resource, held in trust and managed by eight states and two Canadian provinces. It is not up to any single state to unilaterally move those waters beyond the borders of the Great Lakes basin.

For the eight US states involved, a federal law in place since 1986 requires the Governors of those states to approve unanimously any such out-of-basin diversion, and the pending Compact finally establishes rules and standards so those diversions, when approved, are not capricious.

Why argue that Wisconsin should, on its own, let Milwaukee sell water to New Berlin, if federal law, and the Wisconsin AG opinion, says it's illegal?

If Waukesha County legislators are smart, they will take the Council's resolution along with the AG opinion as motivations to get the Compact passed in Wisconsin - - something obstructed by State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin) and other short-sighted business and political leaders.

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