The blogger and Great Lakes expert Dave Dempsey, from Minnesota by way of Michigan, notes that New Berlin's diversion application approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Thursday offers a pledge of conservation rather than a program, in place, with demonstrable gains.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Truth is, the DNR, preparing for the bigger fish out Waukesha way, wanted to get this application out of the way and thus asked little of New Berlin because the city, already hooked up to the region's sewerage treatment system, will be returning slightly more water than they will acquire from the Lake Michigan diversion.
So New Berlin got an "A+" for return flow, deserves a "D" on conservation, but with a "B-" average (and this is my shorthand) was green-lighted by the DNR which had already blessed the provisional 20-year water sale arrangement between New Berlin and the City of Milwaukee.
I think that Wisconsin's approval, coming before New Berlin demonstrated a genuine conservation effort and also without DNR's administrative rules defining and governing an application process, will hurt the state's credibility with the other Great Lakes states.
Those seven other states did not get a crack under the new Great Lakes Compact at reviewing New Berlin's application because the community is partially within the Great Lakes basin.
But the City of Waukesha, which says it will submit an application by the end of the year for nine times as much water, and which sits entirely outside the basin, must, according to the Compact, undergo a review by all the Great Lakes states and receive their unanimous approval before the water can flow.
And while New Berlin is returning more water than it receives, Waukesha has already indicated it would seek permission to send some diverted water away from the Great Lakes basin to protect a nearby marsh - - a use of discharged Great Lakes water that the Compact does not allow.
I see troubled waters ahead for Waukesha.
And the other states might be tempted to give Waukesha a double-dose of scrutiny, including one helping for the review they couldn't apply to New Berlin, just to let Wisconsin know that New Berlin got away relatively easy - - certainly far easier, as Dempsey points out, than the eight-state review for all diversions that was required by federal law prior to the approval of the Compact in 2008.