The National Wildlife Federation, echoing posts and commentaries on this blog and by organizations throughout Southeastern Wisconsin, has issued a tight and unsparing critique of the Lake Michigan diversion plan promoted by the City of Waukesha.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
I assume the NWF statement is being read elsewhere - - in Michigan, perhaps, as noted last week by a leading regional planner - - where there is a history of tough diversion review, even rejection - - and all eight Great Lakes states' Governors have to agree to Waukesha's application, or it dies.
Waukesha has known for many years that choosing a Lake Michigan option to resolve its water supply issues is fraught with legal, political and regulatory problems.
Out-of-state Great Lakes experts are continuing to notice - - Dave Dempsey, for example.
The city frequently cites a 2002 consultants' study that concluded Lake Michigan offered the best new water source for Waukesha - - link here - - yet the study had this to say about the difficulties of the Lake Michigan option, on page VIII:
"The Lake Michigan alternative provided slightly less benefit than the shallow aquifer alternative, but greater benefit than the sandstone aquifer. This alternative involves buying treated drinking water from a Lake Michigan water utility and pumping to Waukesha. The Lake Michigan alternative was rated as the most reliable and as the best in terms of operations and maintenance (O&M). However, concerns for obtaining permission for a diversion without sending wastewater back to the Great Lakes basin, and negotiating a water contract with another community caused this alternative to be ranked lowest in regulatory/legal, political/public acceptance, and schedule criteria."
The phrase "without sending wastewater back to the Great Lakes basin" is no longer relevant because the Great Lakes Compact, now more than a year old, mandates such return.
But I'd argue, and the NWF statement certainly sums it up, that there are considerable "regulatory/legal, political/public acceptance, and schedule criteria" with the Lake Michigan alternative that pose hurdles for Waukesha.
And then there is that $164 million pricetag...for one Waukesha politician - - yet whose substitute plan costs another $32 million, city officials say.