Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Chinatown" Worth Viewing As Waukesha County Water Diversions Loom

You remember "Chinatown," right - - the 1974 film classic about diverting the Los Angeles city water supply to nearby land where there was development and money to be had?

Who knows how closely life will imitate art when the City of Waukesha files its formal application for a diversion of Lake Michigan water - - a process presumably devoid of the Chinatownesque secrecy that accompanied an earlier effort by Waukesha to get a 24-million-gallon-per-day diversion permission from state officials?

And will Waukesha acquire water for itself, or will it bring in other municipalities, or will SEWRPC use the application and its recently-concluded regional water supply study to recommend the creation of a water authority to help expand diversions where over-pumping and over-development has enhanced demand?

Sensors and gauges and computers can track the environmental impact of waters' movements, but how closely and broadly will the political and financial course that diverted water and its return flow regime takes be monitored, analyzed and corrected?

Wealth will follow the movement of Lake Michigan west to Waukesha County, which brings to mind a memorable scene from "Chinatown" when Jake Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson, has his suspicions about a secret diversion away from LA confirmed by Russ Yelburton, a water system bureaucrat.

Yelburton minimizes and spins and outright lies, and doesn't give Nicholson the whole seedy story, but ends up speaking a truth worth remembering:

"We're not anxious for this to get around but we have been diverting a little water to irrigate orange groves in the Northwest Valley. As you know, the farmers out there have no legal right to our water. We've been trying to help some of them out. Keep them from going under. Naturally when you divert water, there's a little run-off."


Jim Bouman said...

I'm glad to see that someone else likes to cite Chinatown in the context of Waukesha development. I blogged about this film and the coming (since arrived) implosion of upscale subdivisions (as well as lots of overextended buyers of existing houses almost three years ago:
I'm actually a bit more sanguine about the prospects of a diversion of Lake Michigan water being turned down, now that things have turned ugly in the real estate and land development world.

But, the proposal that is coming needs to be fought--with information, argumentation, facts, economic analysis and common sense.

Anonymous said...

So you base your argument on a movie? I need facts, not stories.

James Rowen said...

27 months ago I discoverd Waukesha's confidentialplan to get water, and published it - -