Friday, October 23, 2009

DNR To Waukesha: "You're Pre-Approved!"

Like the mortgage brokers who handed out approvals to anyone who could make an X on a form, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is sending a strong signal to the City of Waukesha that its application for water under the Great Lakes Compact of 2008 is going to get the Matador's pass when its environmental 'review' takes place.

The DNR has done this by waiting until after Waukesha kicked off the application process with requests from potential Lake Michigan water sellers to answer a written request from the City of Milwaukee - - the lead potential seller - - that applications be held in abeyance until the DNR wrote administrative rules to guide the process.

Waited four-to- five months to answer the Milwaukee letter.

Waited a year-and-a-half after the Compact and Wisconsin's so-called implementing bill were signed into law.

There are huge environmental questions associated with the application - - notably Waukesha's intent to flush its wastewater down Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa. That's to save money: a pipeline back to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District would cost more money.

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, which has recommended that Waukesha get its diversion even though the SEWRPC water supply study is not yet finished, has said it is not going to conduct those environmental studies.

Waukesha hired a consultant this summer who said the wastewater plan would not negatively effect the Creek, so I guess that settles that.

Waukesha's eventual diversion approval by the DNR was signalled several years ago when its negotiators inserted into Compact discussions the draft exception now in the agreement: that a community in a county that touches the Great Lakes basin is eligible to apply for a diversion.

Once that twisted geo-political concept made it into the agreement, the die was cast, but to make sure it happens on Waukesha's terms and timetables, the DNR then took a pass on writing rules that would establish uniformity and process in an application's compilation and review.

This is one of the darkest days in the history of the DNR, and proof positive that the agency needs an independently selected Secretary, as was the case before Governors Thompson, McCallum and Doyle took turns politicizing it, to refocus the agency on a policy and science mission, not a political one.


Anonymous said...

Jim, if you don't mind, can you tell us what other states with DNR offices have or have not developed water compact administrative rules? Is WI the only so-called lazy state on this? Maybe you can respond with a new blog post. Thanks.

James Rowen said...

To Anon; I recently saw a compilation of where the other Great Lakes states are with regard to implementation and rules, and I will try and locate it.

But remember: Wisconsin was always Ground Zero for diversions because New Berlin and Waukesha were waiting in the wings.

And I didn't mean to say or imply that WI is lazy: this avoidance of rule-making was intentional. There was plenty of time to start, and be at or close to the finish.

James Rowen said...

I am pleased, of late, to see the DNR freezing the application pending more daya and analysis.