Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Will The DNR Write Great Lakes Diversion Rules This Year?

Many months have elapsed since Wisconsin approved the Great Lakes Compact, yet the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources shows no inclination to begin the rule-making process spelling out how a Wisconsin municipality would go about writing an application for a Great Lakes diversion under the Compact.

This is a rather big question, as Waukesha has announced its intention to apply before the end of the year for a diversion.

Without the rules in place, it is not clear what should be in the application.

No doubt there will be information in the application, along with water conservation plans and goals, but it is up to the DNR to decide whether the application is complete - - yet without rules in place, it's a gamble that those plans, goals and pledges meet best practices.

And Wisconsin law.

And tradition.

Why the hesitancy?

Politics - - pure and simple - - at two levels.

Internally, some DNR staffers believe they can act on the application without guiding rules in place. This is the gut theory of administrative behavior in full view:

"We know best."

Externally, the DNR wants to be seen as an ally to Waukesha, not an impediment.

So no need to slow the application down - - though that is confusing a way to refine an application so it can pass widespread muster with mere delay.

The result will be an ephemeral, ad hoc application-drafting-and-reviewing-process for what will set a precedent across Wisconsin and the other seven Great Lakes states: that's some precedent.

And that lack of a process is sure to stir resentment and even rejection in other Great Lakes states: any one state can veto an application, which would leave Waukesha back behind the eight-state eight ball, no doubt wishing the DNR had rationalized the process from the beginning.

Putting the DNR Secretary appointment closer to the public, and somewhat insulated from politicking would have made rule-making more likely.

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