Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Waukesha Dribbling Out Information About Its Diversion Plans

Working in Waukesha behind closed doors to develop a Lake Michigan diversion application and plan that will cost tens of millions of dollars - - I was recently denied a copy under Open Records though City of Waukesha documents indicate diversion application drafts have been frequently circulated for months among officials, public relations consultants and scientific advisers under contract - - the city is none the less scheduling some meetings to finally disclose its official thinking and taxpayer-paid planning.

Details, here.

Waukesha officials and their contractors have been operating also without the checks-and-balances provided by normal state administrative rules processes during the nearly year-and-a-half since Wisconsin approved the Great Lakes Compact.

Under some language in, and possible interpretations of, the Compact, Waukesha could obtain a diversion of water, though all eight Great Lakes states that share management responsibilities over the waters must approve the application because Waukesha is entirely outside the Great Lakes basin.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources elected not to write those rules, a startling example of regulatory and public trust capitulation.

Its laissez-faire approach further opens the door to Waukesha's intended diversion of Lake Michigan water from the City of Milwaukee, and thus also Waukesha's probable return flushing of the water back from an expanding service territory (due to projected annexations) through Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa.

Talk about water problems being transferred with the resource itself from one basin and community to another.

I wonder when Wauwatosa is going to weigh in on becoming Waukesha's toilet - - a function blasted as unacceptable for his community when State Rep. Cory Mason, (D-Racine), found out that Waukesha initially considered the Root River through Racine as Waukesha's return point for diverted Lake Michigan water.

Read about halfway through this excellent 2008 regional water history in Milwaukee Magazine for Rep. Mason's assessment.

Waukesha has often referred to its eventual diversion application as a gold standard exercise in environmental improvement.

I'd argue that its penchant for closed Water Utility Commission meetings in pursuit of Lake Michigan water, and the regional planning commission (SEWRPC) recent and oh-so predictable endorsement of the diversion scheme - - while omitting careful study of reasonable alternatives - - makes the approaching Waukesha application a costly misstep, missed opportunity and procedural fumble.

And thus likely to be rejected as insufficient and unjustified by one of more of the other seven Great Lakes states.

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