Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Waukesha Water Meeting Tuesday - - The Highs And Lows

The Waukesha Common Council met as a committee of the whole to kick off the eventual filing of an application for a Great Lakes diversion.

There was an excellent presentation by author Peter Annin on the history and politics of Great Lakes diversions, and that included his useful warning to Waukesha, presumably the first community to apply for an out-of-basin diversion under the Great Lakes Compact, to expect a "brutal" process.

Annin knows his stuff and explained to Waukesha with a power point the value of the Great Lakes and the precedent-setting position the city was in.

Check out his website.

And there was an informative presentation by a DNR staffer, Shaili Peiffer, who explained the multi-step application process, which optimistically is measured in months.

I was disappointed that Mayor Larry Nelson did not allow his water utility staff to address questions that dealt with specific issues already raised by Waukesha and other public officials, such as the potential size of the diversion sought, or return flow.

Nelson said those questions would wait for a later meeting, but with the city's council and water utility commissioners present, along with the public and at least one reporter, Tuesday night would have made a fine beginning of the broader discussion, too.

And one more thing: with water as the sole item on the agenda, here's an appropriate question: does anyone in Waukesha City Hall water the plants?

Those two big dead potted plants (at least one Hibiscus) by the windows outside of the council chambers offer a pretty grim welcome.


James Wigderson said...

It's not the lack of water, but the radium. Did you bring along a couple of gallons last night?

Sorry I missed you. I was planning to attend, got pulled in three different directions, and decided my kids needed to stay home last night instead.

Anonymous said...

To James Wigderson: It's not the radium, either. Did you know that your city's water is radium-compliant all but a couple of weeks out of the year now?

Is it really going to be worth it to y'all in Waukesha to pursue getting Lake Michigan water at a cost of $50 - $110 million (cost estimates are fuzzy--or nonexistant) when you've already ponied up $13.5 million* to achieve 95% compliance?

And who will pay for the $50 - $110 million or more? (bet on the OR MORE part) Residents who haven't yet moved into homes they haven't yet bought from developers who haven't yet built them? (No, not residents-to-be.) The developers who will profit from all that new water? (Big no! AND they'll ask for--and get--TIF money to stick their developments in a cornfield. TIF money comes out of taxpayers' pockets too.) The Water Utility? (No, top staff doesn't even live in Waukesha) The feds? (that's you and me) The state? (that's us, too) The City? (that's you, James) the Water Utility customers? (that's you again James). The way I see it, you're going to be paying for a Lake Michigan diversion 4 ways, so you'd better start following the money.

The Water Utility Kool-aide is far worse for you than a little radium, James! Put your journalist nose to this and sniff out the real story. Radium doesn't smell, but something else does . . .

*including at least $500,000 (according to this blog) spent on consultants, lawyers and PR.
*not including the $1.5 million or so (low estimate) fighting the EPA to NOT comply with the radium standard. Which they lost after fighting it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court and the EPA under the Bush Administration, BTW.