Sunday, March 7, 2010

National Wildlife Federation Sees Problems With Waukesha's Diversion Plan

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.

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.

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