Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Heard On The Street: Waukesha Forging Ahead With Diversion Application

Despite a host of obstacles, Waukesha is forging ahead with its Lake Michigan diversion planning - - even getting an application on paper to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) during 2009, sources tell me.

The obstacles:

* The DNR has yet to issue administrative rules governing an application's content and review process, as called for by the Great Lakes Compact of 2008;

* A statement by Ken Yunker, executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, that he would recommend deferring approval of the SEWRPC water supply study and its diversion suggestions until the regional implications of diversions on socio-economic conditions - - housing, employment, transportation etc. - - are added to the draft study;

* The City of Milwaukee, seen as fast-growing Waukesha's water supplier, has not hired its consultant to compute the true value of diverted water beyond the rates allowed by the state Public Service Commission;

* The environmental and financial costs of Waukesha's preferred method of returning wastewater to the Great Lakes basin - - dumping it by the millions of gallons daily into Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa - - have yet to be studied;

* New Berlin's separate smaller, less complex but still controversial Lake Michigan diversion application has yet to be finally reviewed by the DNR, let alone approved, suggesting that Waukesha's far more problematic application is bound to be stalled, especially if it appears rushed or merely political driven, or aimed at promoting faster sprawl.

(Waukesha has until 2018 to bring its water supply into permanent compliance with federal standards.)

The word on the street about Waukesha's application planning is that 'Waukesha isn't waiting on anyone,' setting up unnecessary confrontations with environmental and conservation groups, other municipalities and tough-minded reviewers in states like Michigan.

Where there is veto power over an application from a community like Waukesha that is entirely outside the Great Lakes basin and needs the diversion approval of all eight Great Lakes states...remember?

A hard-charging Waukesha could imperil the Compact principles that call for science and best-practices' planning to guide diversion decisions - - with the city ending up as its own worst enemy.

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