Monday, May 12, 2008

Rep. Scott Gunderson: Waukesha To Return 102% of Diverted Water

You may remember that Kurt Barikmo, a Muskego resident and conservation activist, wrote State Rep. Scott Gunderson a few days ago - - posted here. - - and asked for Gunderson's thinking on the Great Lakes Compact.

The chairman of the Assembly Energy and Environment committee, and a GOP leader holding up the Compact and its implementing bill, Gunderson (R-Watertown) sent Barikmo the following reassuring and most fascinating email response - - fascinating because it tells Barikmo that Waukesha intends to return all water it might divert from Lake Michigan and more - - something I don't recall Waukesha even hinting at.
Says Gunderson to Barikmo:

"The City of Waukesha has already started a water conservation plan that will be the model for the United States, while at the same time projecting a return of 102% of the water used back to the basin if a transfer is necessary."


That's a big number.

Now I could be wrong, and will be the first to say so if I am - - but I don't think Waukesha has yet resolved or announced how it might return diverted water to Lake Michigan and still keep a sustainable water flow in and through the Vernon Marsh and the Fox River, especially in warm weather.

Right now, Waukesha discharges its treated waste water into the Fox River, and eventually into the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico - - not into the Great Lakes or its basin - - and there, as they say, is the rub.

What I've heard is that Waukesha is trying to persuade the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to accept a partial, and seasonal return flow regimen and help convince the other Great Lakes states on Waukesha's behalf that such a plan would meet the requirements of the Great Lakes Compact.

Which is why, I believe, Waukesha and Waukesha County's legislators are now lined up to approve a Great Lakes Compact implementing bill that doesn't put the Compact's return flow standard and requirement into operation until the Compact get its final approval in all the states and the US Congress - - years into the future, at the soonest.

Details of that strategy, which I call the Waukesha Loophole, are here.

But back to Gunderson and the 102% guarantee:

Is it possible that Gunderson has confused Waukesha with New Berlin, a neighbor of Waukesha's, but a separate municipality, that indeed has said it would return a surplus of water if its Lake Michigan diversion application is approved?

Maybe Gunderson has some documentation from Waukesha about this, and they can all sort it out by releasing it.

(Update: Two emails sent twice Monday to Gunderson seeking clarification have yet to be answered, but Waukesha Water Utility general manager Dan Duchniak said by email Monday evening that he believes Gunderson is confusing Waukesha with New Berlin. Not a confidence builder, eh?)

Gunderson's original email response to Barikmo, in full, and Barikmo's, are below:

----- Original Message -----
From: Gunderson, Scott
To: kbarikmo: Sent: Wednesday, May 07, 2008 3:49 PM
Subject: RE: Great Lakes Water
Mr.. Barikmo,

The Great Lakes Compact is a vital piece to the preservation of the great resource known as the Great Lakes. Members on both sides of the aisle have worked very hard to put together a piece of legislation that will preserve the water in the Great Lakes for generations to come. The Great Lakes Compact that we will vote on very soon is a win for all the citizens of Wisconsin.

It was important to many folks in Southeast Wisconsin that they had access to Great Lakes water if needed, while at the same time understanding that treated waste water had to be returned to the basin if they were a straddling community or a community in a straddling county.
They also understand that if any community is to apply for a permit, they must have a water conservation plan that works.

That is a part of this bill that everyone agrees with.

Waukesha County is in a tough spot as we speak. The aquifer that supplies the City of Waukesha and other communities is being depleted at an alarming rate. As this happens radium is released from the stone and contaminates the water.

The City of New Berlin has been told by the DNR that it has to somehow filter its water or find a new source because of radium.

The City of Waukesha knows that it has to find a new water source in the next few years, that source sits only 25 miles away. The City of Waukesha has already started a water conservation plan that will be the model for the United States, while at the same time projecting a return of 102% of the water used back to the basin if a transfer is necessary.

This is also a good thing for the other communities that are pulling water out of the same aquifer because the aquifer should begin to fill back up if the City of Waukesha is not depleting that source. And it should help communities that have been looking at groundwater wells as new sources of water to not have to exercise that option.

The Great Lakes Compact has had a hearing in both the Senate and the Assembly. The changes being made to the Senate version are no different from what we do on any other piece of legislation. We have worked in a bi-partisan fashion to reach agreement on needed changes. And to be very clear, myself, Senator Mark Miller, DNR Sec. Matt Frank and Governor Jim Doyle are all in agreement with this final version of the Great Lakes Compact.

This is truly historic legislation and I take my position in the State Legislature very seriously. We believe that this legislation will work to protect this valuable resource for many generations.

Representative Scott Gunderson


From: kbarikmo Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2008 7:12 PMTo: Rep.GundersonSubject: Great Lakes Water

Dear Representative Gunderson,

I am writing to you today to express my concern with the potential language in the Great Lakes Pact and the State of Wisconsin Legislation related to it. I am also asking for specific information with regard to the Waukesha County or areas straddling the great lakes basin line.

As I understood the language to this point, there were different provisions for areas in the basin, communities straddling the basin and communities within straddling counties, but completely outside the basin. I have a reasonable understanding of that. I also understood that there was specific language that required a conservation component that shall be implemented before an area is granted access to Lake Michigan Water, assuming they request it.

I am very concerned that the conservation component might be eliminated or compromised to the point were it is no longer effective.

I find it disturbing that many of the people who participated in this matter to this point have been restricted due to the heightened level of political participation at this point.

I am requesting that you insist on a public hearing on this matter before this comes to a vote in the Assembly. This is critical to maintain transparency in our democracy and will serve to protect the meritorious concerns of all parties concerned.

I am also concerned that all of your constituents may not be equally represented in this matter. While you claim victory for republicans, you must not forget that you also represent a very offended person that often votes as a democrat in some elections.

Please remember that our environment is the only one we have and it is our duty to serve as its stewards. Unsustainable growth should not be fed water from a source that is demanding protection. More intelligent and tenable solutions are available. Please work to maintain the protections that the conservation component in the Great Lakes Pact were intended to provide.


Kurt Barikmo
Muskego, WI 53150

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