Monday, April 20, 2009

State Of City Address In Waukesha: Expect Compact Application Hype

I expect we'll hear more fast-track messaging about a Lake Michigan diversion plan for Waukesha Tuesday from Mayor Larry Nelson.

Pressure from Waukesha to forge ahead with the diversion application is one reason why the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is considering accepting the application for study before it has its rules in place that define what an application should include, how it will be reviewed, and what a water return flow plan will include.

Talk about the tail wagging the dog...and putting Great Lakes regional cooperation at risk.


rich said...

My sense is the Compact is seen by municipalities as a blueprint on how to get Great Lakes water -- a how-to manual that guarantees access, NOT as an arduous process or barrier that prevents all but the most deprived cases from diverting water they do not own.

Waukesha refers to "our plan" for Lake Michigan water, water that is not theirs to plan for. They feel entitled; it conveys a sense of ownership.

The language is telling, and it indicates that the point of the Compact was to open the barn door for massive diversions.

It's no coincidence that Wisconsin is going first. If water-loving Wisconsin can set an extraordinarily poor standard for diversion, then no one else has anything to live up to. If Wisconsin openly tramples the nominal intent of the Compact, nothing constrains any other state from using water to drive massive development in outlying areas. How many Schaumbergs will that make?

The DNR's decision will set a precedent. It will be a political standard, and that will translate into a legal precedent faster than Todd Amb's public relations team can draft a press release.

That's why Todd Ambs' recent letter was so obviously dishonest. It made Doyle and Wisconsin into a laughingstock: how could the Wisconsin DNR's process and decision on water diversions to New Berlin and Waukesha be anything other than a precedent? Do anything other than set a standard for other states? By definition, Ambs is in error.

I think we are going to have to see some serious organizing on this issue. When water bottlers can come to the Compact negotiating table, it's not an accident.

James Rowen said...

To Rich;
Yes, of course these applications are precedents. And yes, these communities - - Waukesha in particular - - have looked at the Compact as a water acquisition document and process, while the rest of the Great Lakes region sees it as a water conservation, management and protection document and process.

I know there have been discussions between local and state officials from Wisconsin with officials in Michigan - - the goal there is to convince the Michigan officials to withhold the veto when Waukesha applies.

Wisconsin's contingent should have learned something valuable when the first New Berlin application was shot down with devastating comments. Michigan simply said it would not approve it, period.

That was pre-Compact.

The rules have changed since, with New Berlin no longer needing the other states' permission.

Waukesha still does need all eight states' approval, and I predict legal problems for that application if the DNR approves New Berlin, and/or accepts Waukesha's for active review, before Wisconsin's administrative rules are established.

If the message is: Wisconsin can go it alone, the reply back will be OK: you are alone - - Waukesha is denied.

rich said...

Thanks. Interesting info, though I don't have great faith other states will veto.

I noted the two main points for obvious reasons:

Todd Ambs denied that what the DNR does will be a precedent, and we both know he's blowing smoke.

One rationale used to sell the Compact was that this would protect the Great Lakes, while providing access for hardship reasons and b/c partly in the basin is, well, in.

Now, the question is no longer, "Do we need it? There is suddenly a sense of entitlement, but there is no test, nor any efficiency standards. It's mine; I want more. Why conserve when 'Gimme' has no political costs?

I'm aware you know all this . . just sayin'.

James Rowen said...

To Rich;

We'll have to see. Michigan let Wisconsin know, in so many words, when it forwarded New Berlin's original, pre-Compact application for a regional 'courtesy' review that if pushed, Michigan would officially say "no."

So Wisconsin got New Berlin to cool its jets, and everything was put on hold until the Compact was approved.

OK: now what?

The DNR would like to approve the New Berlin application before Wisconsin's administrative rules are written.

The DNR should simply get its rule-making completed. Both New Berlin and Waukesha can meet the federal radium standard all year through water-blending.

I think the DNR knows the political risk it takes if it green-lights the New Berlin application prematurely.

It's possible that everyone will end up in court, hence the same delay, or a longer one, than would have occurred if the DNR did its rule making first.

But I think the reverberations would hit Waukesha, because that is where Michigan or another state could exercise a veto and send the DNR its message.

If I were advising New Berlin, or Waukesha, I'd be telling them to get the DNR to get its processes and procedures in line.