Monday, May 4, 2009

Reporting Raises More Questions About Waukesha Diversion

The City of Waukesha continues its PR offensive in favor of a Lake Michigan diversion, but today's story in the Waukesha edition of the Journal Sentinel begs some unanswered questions:

Is Waukesha pledging to cap its existing deep wells, should it get permission to bring in Lake Michigan water? I don't think so.

Why not?

Because it wants to retain the capacity to fuel development, with the current wells as back-up.

Another question: why does Waukesha continue to define its water supply system solutions with these three choice only: current deep wells; current and future shallow wells in Western Waukesha County; Lake Michigan?

Why won't it give serious consideration to a fourth alternative: water drawn from or close to the Fox River upstream from the city, then used, cleaned and recycled back into the river and sent downstream?

As do many communities along the Fox?

That avoids the fiscal and political expense of the diversion and the return of lake water - - and gets beyond the radium question, too?

Finally: what are the city's annexation plans with diverted water adding value? How will the city pick up the costs of that expansion in regional transportation and housing, for example?

Growth has costs beyond the actual square-footage or acreage involved.

Look no farther than the financial demands exposed at Pabst Farms, which is going nowhere developmentally, but into which the state wants to pour $25 million for an interstate interchange - - with 93% taken from taxpayers.

And look at the deadly toll racked up recently on Highway 164 in Waukesha and Washington Counties north of I-94 - - widened with the blessing of local and state planners, but with an unsafe speed limit to accommodate 'growth.'

The great failing of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission with regard to Waukesha County and much of the region is that it sits passively while Waukesha County builds itself out into designated environmental corridors and agricultural land using public dollars to degrade the land, water and air.

The City of Waukesha itself has ambitious growth plans, with a broadened water service territory intended using Lake Michigan water that extends far beyond the current city and utility service limits.

Until the city comes clean about its expansion plans, and indicates the extent of the public cost and methods to absorb them it's too soon to consider diverting water and ignore the true social and financial ramifications that should be addressed at the same time.

Just because SEWRPC declined to include socio-economic costs in the current draft of a regional water supply plan doesn't mean Waukesha, or any other diverting community, should be allowed to do the same thing.

The city has a 2018 deadline by which it has to remedy permanently its water supply and quality issues. As it meets the standards temporarily, it can use the time to study all its alternatives and look at all the aspects of its goals.

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