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?
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.