Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Racine Does Not Want To Be Waukesha's Toilet

I've been writing for some time about water diversion planning by Waukesha that could include discharging some of its wastewater down the Root River.

One example here, just for the record.

Now some Racine politicos are realizing that if the procedures and standards for that wastewater's discharge and treatment aren't specified, Racine could become Waukesha's toilet, as State Rep. Cory Mason, (D-Racine) puts it.

This is one of the many issues that will play itself out as the Great Lakes Compact hits the legislature for debate.

And it illustrates why people who look at communities across the Lake Michigan boundary that are seeking water, and who say, 'just give them water,' have to grasp that their are huge downstream and region-wide issues that have to addressed transparently before the Compact is approved, and before any diversion application gets approved, too.

Here is a sample of the unresolved water quality and quantity questions:

  • Will the Compact specify standards for returned diverted Great Lakes water?
  • Are current treatment and dischargestandards adequate?
  • Would the Department of Natural Resources' current standards protect its fish hatchery not far from Lake Michigan, and the Root River's value as an angling and recreational locale?
  • Does a discharge plan meet the Compact's return flow mandate if Waukesha is permitted to return only a portion of the 24 million gallons daily it wants to move in from Lake Michigan, with the rest being flushed away forever down the Fox River to the Mississippi River and finally to the Gulf of Mexico?
  • With so much remedial work ongoing in the Meonomonee and KK Rivers and watersheds, is this the time to take a step backwards on the Root?
  • Will the other Great Lakes states accept that partial return, or a partial return that meets relatively low water quality standards.
  • Will the DNR try to call the diversion a withdrawal, and not a diversion, to help Waukesha escape rules and standards that apply to diversions under the Compact and existing Federal law?
  • Can the shoreline and river bank, along with nearby basements, survive unscathed during major rain events if there is a fresh downstream torrent of new wastewater from upstream Waukesha?
Rep. Mason is right to raise these questions before the a Compact bill, delayed by Waukesha County business and political leaders for about two years, finally moves into legislative debate.

Illinois and Minnesota have approved the Compact: Wisconsin is coming to the debate later than the others seven Great Lakes states, and the same forces that have delayed it want to remove diversion approval procedures that would weaken the Compact and cause the other states to walk away from has been nearly seven years of collaborative negotiation and work.

Counting on the DNR to be the outspoken champion of a strong Compact, in the grand Wisconsin environmental tradition?

The DNR has said that it does not necessarily feel bound by existing diversion law , so people will have to hold its feet to the fire if the agency is to be a strong advocate for Wisconsin's waters it manages under the State Constitution's Public Trust Doctrine.


Anonymous said...

Racine is already a toilet and it doesn't help that MMSD continues to use Lake Michigan as a toilet already.

James Rowen said...

i thought long and hard about posting this.
The MMSD has cut overflows into the lake very dramatically, and once you get past Milwaukee's uninformed biases about the Deep Tunnel, you find that in the region, cities would kill for a system as efficient as the MMSD.
Your remark about Racine tells us why you post anonymously.

Anonymous said...

Rowen, only a bigtime lefty like you would compliment the MMSD that has dumped a gazillion gallons of sewage into Lake Michigan. They were never punished because of the "good ol' boy" network that exists between the MMSD and DNR.

Even if Wisconsin signed the Compact, Waukesha and New Berlin still could apply for the diversion as long as they returned treated water to Lake Michigan. It's just more convenient to divert before the Compact is signed.

You grumbled about the anonymous comment above. Is that why you "moderate and approve" any comments sent to you?

And yes, Racine is already a toilet. the germantown_kid

James Rowen said...

A few things to the poster germantown_kid:

I moderate comments because when it was completely open, spammers left comments with offensive material embedded, and other anony. comments were leaving hateful remarks that degraded the blog.

I have only turned back three or four comments since, and that was because they were unnecessarily personal. There's no one running a blog more liberal with comments than am I.

Secondly, the Deep Tunnel has cut overflows dramatically since its inception. It is not perfect. There are hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on improvements. It is working exactly as it was designed, decades ago. And there are plenty of Great Lakes cities with far worse records.

Additionally, experts know that the real danger to the lake is the runoff of heavy metals and other pollutants from the roads.

Finally, you misunderstand the Compact. New Berlin and Waukesha can apply for water, but they are not guaranteed it, Compact or no Compact.

Communities can apply for water any day of the week. But it's only an application.and that is not the same as approval.

Return flow is only one issue under the Compact: demonstrable need, conservation and other measures come into play, and in Waukesha's case, under the Compact the other seven Great Lakes states would have to approve its application even if there was a return flow agreement.

And it is not "more convenient" to apply before the compact is signed.

Just the opposite. Until the compact is approved by the Legislature, New Berlin's application has to be approved by all the other states, too.

That is according to the federal law - - the Wisconsin Resources Development Act of 1986 - - and the Wisconsin Attorney General Opinion of December, 2006.

The latter is advisory, but it cites the US law, something also noted by the Michigan AG, too.

I'm not sure what satisfaction you get out of insulting an entire city (Racine). As I said, your anonymous comment is explained by your words and beliefs.

Get some courage, pal.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how the negative and nasty commenters quiet down when confronted with a reasoned and factual response. Like pigeons with a bellyfull, they drop their nasty-bombs and keep flying to avoid the splash-back. Now that's personal responsibility! No wonder they don't care if Waukesha uses Racine as its toilet--it's exactly what they do.

Anonymous # 2 obviously doesn't read your blog or s/he would know you're no fan of the DNR.

Dave said...

Yea it amazes me that the right-wing talking heads have been able to convince us of two things. 1. MMSD is doing a terrible job. 2. And see another poor government bureaucracy. Funny thing is both of these are false. 1. MMSD is just barely off the stated goals from when the deep tunnel was built. Perfect no but pretty close. 2. MMSD operations are outsourced... when there are problems it is a private company making the mistakes.