Monday, October 19, 2009

Waukesha Mayor Signals Water Ask From Milwaukee, Invites Folks To Come On Out And Get To Know His City

Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson on Monday sent Milwaukee officials - - and presumably the same "Dear official" email went to counterparts in Racine and Oak Creek, too - - a heads-up that Waukesha's request for Lake Michigan water will soon come their way.

I have heard that Nelson learned recently that one Milwaukee opinion-maker had actually never set foot in downtown Waukesha, so that is perhaps Nelson's impetus for urging Milwaukee officials - - all of whom represent the largest city in the state - - to come over to Waukesha and see its far-smaller downtown and a new shopping mall:

The City of Waukesha's population is about 12% the size of Milwaukee's.

I find it ironic and sad that Nelson says in his email to the officials that Waukesha already leads Waukesha in affordable housing.

As it should: it is Waukesha's largest community and only real city - - with some low-income residents - - but it isn't saying much that you beat out the Pewaukee's of Waukesha County for the title of Number One Provider of Affordable Housing.

And that Nelson is echoing earlier statements from officials in both Milwaukee and Waukesha over this year's elimination of a 25-cent bus transfer fee between Milwaukee and Waukesha County bus stops - - but you still can't ride a Milwaukee County Transit System bus directly from downtown Milwaukee to downtown Waukesha, and vice-versa.

So perhaps a real bus or rail deal will be among the urban service sharing that Waukesha will negotiate and provide with Milwaukee as part of a water deal proposal.

Milwaukee's water sales policies mandate cooperation and performance on transit, housing, and development to begin to address the region's ranking at the top of segregated inter-county population groupings in the country.

The elimination of a quarter-per-ride transfer as riders schlep their way on cold winter mornings from one bus to another on their way to the New Berlin Industrial Park really does not a regional water or transportation plan make.

Former Milwaukee Ald. Michael D'Amato has his work cut out as Waukesha's newest water lobbyist.

Mike has to sell Waukesha on true, and, yes, costly regional partnerships, lest his old colleagues on the Milwaukee Common Council believe that he will help Waukesha walk away the winner in a a one-sided water sales negotiation that leaves Milwaukee high and dry politically, and probably disinclined to sell itself and the area into more regional sprawl.

Anyway: here is the text of the Waukesha water ask heads-up from Mayor Nelson:

Dear Neighboring City Officials:

I am writing to ensure that you are aware of a resolution that the Waukesha Common Council will be taking up on Tuesday, October 20, 2009. The resolution requests that letters from municipalities that are willing to negotiate on potential sales of Great Lakes water be submitted to Waukesha by January 31, 2010. Such letters from a potential supplier are required by Wisconsin ’s Great Lakes Compact implementation law to be submitted as part of any Waukesha application for Lake Michigan water in early 2010.

I hope your city will agree to provide us with such a letter, agreeing to discuss and negotiate the benefits of a water sale to a community in need. I also hope to meet with you in the near future to discuss this issue personally.

As you know, the City of Waukesha is investigating its options for a new water supply. Despite Waukesha ’s leadership in water conservation, continued use of its current water supply is unsustainable, due in part to a confining shale layer that prevents recharge of the deep aquifer. Continued use will lead to increasing problems with contaminants and water quantities and will continue to worsen negative impacts on surface waters.

In addition, Waukesha has signed a stipulated order with the Wisconsin Department of Justice to comply with federal radium standards by June 30, 2018. Given the time needed for approval of a potential application for Great Lakes water supply by the Department of Natural Resources and the Great Lakes Governors, the potential for legal appeals, the five years needed for design and construction, and the possibility of a denial that could require pursuit of an alternative supply, Waukesha cannot afford to delay its decision on its water supply. I anticipate a decision on making an application for Great Lakes water to be made by the Waukesha Common Council early next year, hopefully in February.

Waukesha has been studying its water supply options since 2001 and the regional planning authority has also recently issued draft recommendations. Both extensive studies reached the conclusion that the use of Great Lakes water is the most economical and best environmental option. A switch to Great Lakes water allows recycling of the water back to Lake Michigan after use and begins the process of allowing the deep aquifer to recover. Use of groundwater, on the other hand, would continue to cause permanent loss of groundwater to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico and reduce the resources needed by area surface waters. For those reasons, I believe the use and recycling of Lake Michigan water is the best option for Waukesha .

I also strongly believe that it is far better for Waukesha to invest water revenues in payments that will benefit a fellow Wisconsin city rather than in construction and maintenance of additional wells that will draw down the vital groundwater resources of the region.

However, an application for Great Lakes water must, under s. 281.346(4)(b)4m, Wis. Stats., include letters or resolutions from potential water suppliers indicating they are willing to negotiate to meet our water supply needs. Because that application may occur within a few short months and because of the time it may take for official actions by potential suppliers, we believe that it is imperative for us to notify potential suppliers now.

I hope to meet with you in person soon to discuss these issues. In addition, I invite you to visit the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin’s 7th largest city. I have found that many people in the region have not had the opportunity to visit our historic downtown and often have mistaken impressions about our city, its people, its infrastructure and its services. We lead our county in affordable housing. We have our own successful transit system and I am proud to have recently negotiated the elimination of bus transfer fees between Waukesha and Milwaukee. Our development, such as 24 new businesses in our historic downtown and a new shopping center, is primarily in-fill development.

As a member of M7, I strongly believe in the need for regional cooperation on the challenges facing our region, and especially those involving water and transportation. As Mayor of Waukesha, and as the new President of the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities, I will continue to be an advocate on behalf of southeastern Wisconsin’s cities and their residents. For instance, I have been working with our Congressional delegation to create an Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) authorization for Southeast Wisconsin Safe Drinking Water (SDW) needs.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to discuss Waukesha ’s request for letters or resolutions in support of water sale negotiations, as well as other issues of mutual interest.

For more information on the water issues, including 50 pages of responses to questions from a consortium of environmental groups, a map of our water service area and an October 12 presentation on our water supply needs, please see


Mayor Larry Nelson
City of Waukesha


Anonymous said...

As the 7th largest urban center in Wisconsin, I cannot believe Waukesha is not already linked to the largest urban center through a substantial fixed transit link. Who would be so foolish as to deny these great Wisconsin urban centers from connecting? This state is so backwards that I have to leave. I cannot tolerate the poor decision making any longer.

Anonymous said...

I already left. But the reason I come back to this blog (now that I live in a different state) is because I want to keep up on how SE WI's natural beauty is going down the toilet with over-development and sprawl.

Waukesha city is doing its best to reach out to Milwaukee city. That's a good thing, right? But the problem Nelson has is much bigger than water quality and supply. This other problem has to do with sprawl. In particular, big housing located out in the middle of nowhere. And Nelson forgets to mention how poor the housing stock is in the city. In fact, he forgets to mention that new housing in the Town of Waukesha is much bigger and even more affordable (especially in terms of fewer taxes). But the Mayor is onto something - that is - beginning a new marketing campaign to help grow that city again. Next, he'll be talking about the city's great school system. But he'll forget to mention the gang problem. Then he'll also bring up how he is dealing with a homeless problem, even though arm twisting had to be done with the common council to keep operating one of its homeless shelters despite its problems with overcrowding and lack of permits, I believe. But don't worry because Nelson has all the right answers to fix every problem because he can "foresee" them. And that my friends, is flushing your problems literally down the toilet - through Tosa and into "our" great lake (not Waukesha's lake).