Monday, August 31, 2009

Possible "Significant Impact" On Underwood Creek From Waukesha Sewerage Discharge Apparently Not Real

It was reported by the Journal Sentinel recently that a consultant hired by the Waukesha Water Utility found no significant effects would result from discharging Waukesha wastewater into Underwood Creek to return diverted water to Lake Michigan - - and that the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission also did not see the discharge plan as problematic.

The report was good news for Waukesha, as it moves forward the city's case for an eventual diversion by perhaps settling one question hanging over a diversion application:

Is returning the water to Lake Michigan via Underwood Creek a better solution for the environment than piping it directly to the MMSD, or sending it down the Root River?

Waukesha will be required by the Department of Natural Resources to study all potential options, but the skids are being greased for Underwood Creek as Waukesha's preferred alternative.

I'm still waiting to hear from the good folks of Wauwatosa about the whole deal, as I remember that State Rep. Cory Mason, (D-Racine), flushed away the notion of using the Root River as the discharge vehicle when he said he did not want his district to be Waukesha's toilet.

The fullcourt press headed Wauwatosa's way reminds me a bit of the debates over whether to build a new stadium - - known today as Miller Park - - for the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club.

What began as a discussion over where to locate it morphed, or was manipulated into a discussion of which roof design do you like when the new ballpark was built next to what was then County Stadium?

In other words: the site selection somehow slid off the table with some distractions or studies and (foregone) conclusions pumped out by the team's then owner, Bud Selig, and the State of Wisconsin, which under former Gov. Tommy Thompson pushed through the project until the anti-tax backlash took hold.

Anyway: I have not read the Waukesha consultant's report, prepared for $9,500 by the consulting firm SEH - - Short Elliott Hendrickson - - and though I certainly will, I did read the contract and related records covering the scope of the consultant's proposal that is on file with the Waukesha Water Utility.

[Related postings with links to other diversion-relevant documents from a recent search at the Waukesha Water Utility are found here.]

So I noted this bulleted item in Exhibit A, in a letter from SEH dated April 29, 2009 - - here is a link to that letter - - that outlined the proposed scope of work, and the study goals:

"There is general agreement that the proposed 20 cfs [cubic feet per second] effluent flow diversion to Underwood Creek will produce a negligible effect on watercourse responses during average and peak discharge events. However, the addition of 20 cfs to low (base) flow conditions in Underwood Creek is anticipated to have a significant impact on water depths and potentially velocities during these events, since low flow discharges would increase from approximately 3 cfs to 23 cfs."

So was that "general agreement" about low flow discharges - - that means in the warm weather when the Creek is shallower - - found to be inaccurate? Not applicable? Out-of date? Plumb wrong?

I assume the report will answer these questions.

By the way, a separate study must be completed that examines what effects the discharge will have on Lake Michigan, and that study has yet to be completed.

And also not certain: whether all eight Great Lakes states will approve the Waukesha application, whether the City of Milwaukee will agree to be the water's seller, and whether Waukesha taxpayers and water rate payers will buy into - - literally - - the cost of the whole piping and return flow regime for what could be $100 million.

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