Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Waukesha Wants Milwaukee To Carry Its Water In Diversion Proceedings

A bit of sunshine can now be shown on one aspect of Waukesha's strategic push for a Great Lakes diversion.

An unsigned internal document obtained from the Waukesha Water Utility by this blog shows how Waukesha is framing its wants and needs for the diversion, including the desire for the City of Milwaukee to formally endorse the Waukesha application for a Lake Michigan diversion prior to Waukesha's submission of that application to the Department of Natural Resources.

Without that formal City of Milwaukee endorsement, the Waukesha document says that Waukesha's application would be incomplete for DNR consideration - - suggesting something of a Catch-22 for Waukesha since the DNR review and acceptance is a prerequisite for the review and approval of the seven other Great Lakes states.

All eight Great Lakes states must approve an application from Waukesha because the city is entirely outside of the Great Lakes basin, according to the Great Lakes Compact approved by all eight Great Lakes states, and US Congress, in 2008.

Waukesha Water Utility Manager Daniel Duchniak said by email that the three-page internal document "GOALS" was written by Bill McClenahan, a public relations contractor and key figure in Waukesha's diversion strategy and planning who works at the firm of Martin J. Schreiber & Associates.

The document (here is a link created for me to a pdf of the hard-copy document) also:

* Lays out in a dozen bullets under the heading "To Impress upon Milwaukee" (bold-facing in the original) the case for Waukesha's wants and needs for Lake Michigan water, and that ends with the bold-faced and italicized summation: "It makes more sense for Milwaukee to be at the table than to walk away from it."

* Says that Milwaukee is Waukesha's preferred Lake Michigan supplier supplier.

* But also discloses it wants and needs similar letters of support or resolutions for the Lake Michigan diversion from Oak Creek and Racine as possible alternatives to Milwaukee as the provider of the water.

* Emphasizes that conditions on water negotiations and sales established by the Milwaukee Common Council, including water pricing, Smart Growth and socio-economic tie-ins (transportation, housing, development, environment) are "confusing and complex...and appear inconsistent with Waukesha's timetable for submitting an application for Great Lakes water this spring." (emphasis in the original)

Though that timetable has obviously come and gone, other documents provided by the utility show that McClenahan, Duchniak and Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson have reviewed application drafts and materials - - dove-tailing with public statements from Nelson that he wants the application submitted to the DNR before the end of the year.

Duchniak said by email that portions of the document may have been used during a meeting with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Along with senior Milwaukee Ald. and Common Council water expert Michael Murphy, however, Barrett has twice written the DNR and asked that it not accept for review any community's diversion application before the agency has published administrative rules that spell out an application's review requirements and processes.

To date, there has been no reply from the DNR, which I am sure is not making Milwaukee happy with either the DNR's apparent passivity, or with Waukesha's apparent full head of steam without state guidance, let alone administrative restraint.

If you are Waukesha, you'd read the DNR's silence to Milwaukee as something of a green light.

Also: Milwaukee is still seeking a consultant to help it price water for sale to communities like Waukesha - - an issue McClenahan saw as a potential obstacle to Milwaukee aldermen beginning negotiations, as well as other delays for Waukesha's application review and eventual approval.

Concluded McClenahan:

"[Note: In addition, it is possible any such [Milwaukee water sales' consultant] report will be controversial," wrote McClenahan in the document's conclusion. "Milwaukee does not own Lake Michigan water. It can charge for delivery and treatment of water. It can even charge for developmental impacts on Milwaukee of water sales. But I believe that it cannot charge for the water, which is held in public trust. Any such "commoditizing" of water is also contrary to the Great Lakes Compact.]

"The bottom line is that Waukesha must determine whether Milwaukee's process and timing coincides with its own needs to move forward." (emphasis in the original)

So it seems unlikely-to-impossible that Milwaukee would endorse Waukesha's game plan by signing onto Waukesha's application at this point - - that is, prior to the DNR's writing the administrative rules - - a DNR process that Waukesha officials believe unnecessary, water utility documents show.


Anonymous said...

This diversion would be good for Milwaukee because it would open a new revenue stream, plus the water works is operating at a third of its capacity. Waukesha could also send the water back to mmsd like New Berlin does. Chicago dumps its treated sewage down the Chicago River that eventually ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. That is millions of gallons per day already lost from the lake every day. This compact is idiotic being that it prevents minor withdrawls from Waukesha yet grandfathers the behemoth city of Chicago to send lake michigan water to the gulf.

James Rowen said...

To Anon: Let's clarify a few things.

1. Waukesha does not want to send effluent back through MMSD, as does New Berlin, because that would involve the construction of a costly return flow pipeline. That is why it is proposing to pipe discharge back only as far as Underwood Creek and flush it downstream. The environmental and Creek level issues are substantial.

2. The Compact is not what first grandfathered the Chicago diversion. It was a Supreme Court decision, so the Compact has no effect on what the Court said was the law.

What the Compact tries to do is to minimize the subsequent diversions.

3. A diversion would produce revenue to Milwaukee, but the downside of lost jobs, diverted development, expanded pumping infrastructure and related costs could make the entire arrangement a negative.