Saturday, December 26, 2009

Delay Corrodes Gold Standard Water Plan Pledged By Waukesha

Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson has pledged that his city's long- awaited application for a precedent-setting Lake Michigan diversion will be a "role-model" document.

So it was disappointing that Nelson canceled the touted December 2nd release of the role-model application that has been years in the making.

Waukesha, we learned, had switched consultants and assigned to the engineering and consulting firm CHJ2M Hill the task of rewriting and reformatting several years of work by other consultants.

Since this is all about water, you wonder about changing horses midstream.

Sources suggest that at the heart of the delay is a core issue for any community wanting to divert Great Lakes water out of the basin: how and where to send the diverted water back to the Great Lakes basin and still comply with the new, but untested Great Lakes Compact - - which at its core is a water preservation plan, not the enabling of diversions - - to manage the world's largest supply of fresh surface water.

That is a role-model document for a unique, planetary-scale resource.

Waukesha currently takes its water from wells near the city that are part of the Mississippi River watershed.

Because Waukesha lies entirely outside the Great Lakes basin, and is within a different watershed, all eight Great Lakes states must approve Waukesha's plan and it must meet all the Compact's rules about environmentally proper return of the water.

Not to mention a set of rules about eligibility and diversion need in the first place, too.

Waukesha had, I am told, hoped to send diverted water after treatment back to Lake Michigan through Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa using basically the same permit issued to the city from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for the discharge of its current wastewater to the Fox River, which flows into the Mississippi River.

Different river than Underwood Creek.

Different watershed, too.

Apparently more work is needed to establish how that return flow can be achieved while meeting the Compact's standards, as well as existing legal and environmental standards.

The DNR has made Waukesha's task more difficult by declining to write administrative rules governing the implementation of the Compact in Wisconsin, and defining what a complete, comprehensive - - a so-called role model application - - should contain.

If you think about it, "role model" is a bit awkward to describe a product or document.

It's more applicable to label people that show leadership.

It's the stance that the Governor, DNR officials and senior legislators who pushed the Compact to its approval more than a year ago.

That would have guaranteed a process to help direct Waukesha and others who seek to move Great Lakes water.

And to underscore the Compact's core premise - - establishing methods to maintain the quality and quantity of an immense, shared resource - - all the waters of the Great Lakes basin.

No comments: