Monday, March 29, 2010

In Diversion Estimate, Waukesha Includes Unspecified Side Payment To Milwaukee

Don Behm of the Journal Sentinel has Waukesha Water Utility manager Daniel Duchniak disclosing that provision for a payment of an unspecified sum to Milwaukee towards economic losses that could result from a Lake Michigan diversion is included in Waukesha's cost estimate of $164 million to divert the water, via the Milwaukee Water Works, and then return it to the lake.

Here is the key quote:

"The $164 million price does include funds for compensating Milwaukee for possible losses of employers and jobs to Waukesha, according to Duchniak. He declined to comment on the amount of such a payment because that would be settled in negotiations."

That kind of separate contract arrangement - - which begins to address requirements of a buyer like Waukesha laid down by the Milwaukee Common Council - - is among the diversion plan's more controversial aspects and has become an issue in next week's Mayoral campaign.

I don't think I had seen it published earlier that a payment of some sort is included in the overall cost estimate for a diversion with Milwaukee as the supplier of water.

What is important is that it gets on the record that Waukesha knows enough about the inevitability of losses to Milwaukee that they are setting aside funding as compensation.

Whether that is the best way to structure a side deal, I cannot say at this point.

A few years ago, Waukesha paid a lawyer for her recommendation that sharing development gains - - tax-base sharing - - was the best idea to facilitate water sales. Waukesha disowned the suggestion, however. History here.

I have argued that a diversion could sap resources from Milwaukee and contribute to the disproportionate poverty in the region's largest city.

And the UWM consultants who are still probing for relationships between the region's water planning and its socio-economic needs could ask Duchniak for more information about the calculation, his reasoning, etc.

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