Sunday, March 29, 2009

Two National Groups Call New Berlin's Diversion Application Incomplete

New Berlin's application to divert Lake Michigan water to a portion of the city outside of the Great Lakes basin has yet to receive final approval by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; the first set of detailed comments rolling in from two major environmental organizations that helped create the governing Great Lakes Compact find fundamental problems with New Berlin's application.

Details here.

The groups filing the critical comments are the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and the National Wildlife Federation.

The critique echoes earlier comments filed by a number of groups when New Berlin first began drafting its plan - - insufficient conservation measures, for example - -a serious matter since conservation is a requisite for diversion approvals under the 2008, eight-state Compact.

New Berlin's application - - the first under review since the Compact was approved - - needs only Wisconsin's approval because part of the municipality is within the Great Lakes basin.

An application for a significantly larger amount of water that is expected later this year from Waukesha would require the approval of all the Great Lakes states because the entire municipality is outside the basin.

That application will generate more controversy because, to date, Waukesha has indicated it wants to discharge some treated wastewater from Lake Michigan to a creek in Wauwatosa, while also sending some of that discharge away from the Great Lakes basin via the Fox River.

The Wauwatosa discharge could raise the creek's level and change its biochemistry; the discharge into the Fox River appears to violate a basic tenet of the Compact, which is that minus a factor for consumption, all water removed from the Great Lakes must be returned to its basin.

The Fox River flows into the Mississippi River, then into the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition to these legal and environmental issues, Waukesha will have to convince the City of Milwaukee - - the most likely seller - - that a diversion will not speed up economic activity in Waukesha, thus adding to sprawl and the transfer of jobs and capital away from land-locked Milwaukee.

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