Monday, September 29, 2008

SEWRPC Study Creates More Problems For Waukesha Than It Solves

The preliminary water supply study recommendations by a Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission committee for a Lake Michigan diversion for the City of Waukesha may, on paper, suggest a smoother path for the city's diversion plans, but the fine print might be the opposite.

Though the recommendations are not yet on line, the authors of the preliminary document - - SEWRPC staff and the lead consulting firm of Ruckert-Mielke - - are suggesting that returning 85% of the diverted water back to Lake Michigan would conform with the recently-approved Great Lakes Compact's return flow requirements.

The Compact does not say that. It say return flow of 100%, minus a reasonable factor for consumption.

And it also does not allow co-mingling the diverted water with water from other sources - - meaning that Waukesha is looking at a big political problem with the other states, and probably from the Wisconsin DNR, if it suggests anything like the 85% return-flow suggestion, with or without non-Lake Michigan water.

This is indicative of some basic problems with some Wisconsin perspectives on the Compact from the beginning of the effort to update the Compact and make it stronger.

While the goal was water preservation and conservation, too many interests in Wisconsin saw the Compact as a water-acquisition opportunity.

Waukesha may come in with an application that does not reflect SEWRPC's 85% position. And that position may be abandoned by the full SEWRPC committee on its own, or after public hearings, or by the Commission itself.

My advice: do it now or deal with headaches for years.

SEWRPC is not doing Waukesha any favors by presenting what can be interpreted as an end-run around the basic goals, let alone the language, of a Compact that took seven years to negotiate and pass.

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