Friday, April 23, 2010

More Fallout Over Waukesha's Great Lakes Diversion Plan

Another day, another backlash against the City of Waukesha's plan to seek permission to divert water from Lake Michigan.

This week alone, there has been:

* A demand from a majority of City of Milwaukee alderman that the new Mayor Waukesha explain rather volatile campaign remarks suggesting Waukesha should avoid Milwaukee as a potential water supplier, and not meet Milwaukee's financial and policy conditions for such a sale.

*The 13-3 vote by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors objecting to Waukesha's proposed diversion scheme because Waukesha intends to return its diversion, as treated waste water, through Milwaukee waterways. The Board was echoing the infamous remark by State Rep. Cory Mason, (R-Caledonia), when he said the Root River through Racine County should not become "Waukesha's toilet."

*The Town of Waukesha, the less-populated and more-rural City of Waukesha neighbor, is moving towards a tough set of regulations designed to limit the larger City's access to new wells in the Town should the Lake Michigan diversion plan get shot down by one or more of the Great Lakes states.

Has the City of Waukesha become The Village of the Damned?

Why are so many other units of government so down on the diversion plan?

Could it be that Waukesha's approach to its neighbors has been over-bearing, and that its approach to Great Lakes water is laden with misplaced entitlement?

Let's not forget a basic rul of governance: Officials, like Milwaukee County supervisors, don't want to be left out of the process, or, like their constituents, be taken for granted.

Milwaukee County communities and residents have put a lot of effort and money into river and stream clean-up: being asked to absorb, on average, about 11 million gallons of another community's waste water, without any say in writing the plan or choosing the outcome, will get you a 13-3 spanking.

And its an action sure to catch the eye of regulators in Madison, and the other Great Lakes states, too.

As for Milwaukee's aldermen: they can read the papers, and didn't like the rhetoric coming out of the Waukesha mayor's race. If Waukesha really wants to buy Milwaukee water - - a key premise of Waukesha's diversion planning - - it's a bad strategy to kick around that potential business partner, especially if they have the best and least expensive product around.

And the border and well-drilling war with the Town of Waukesha?

More Bad Politics 101, as the City is in the midst a condemnation of land within the Town for a new well field.

Additionally, the City intends to expand the reach of its water utility's service territory into the Town if the diversion is won - - imperiously extending City influence into the Town.

And perhaps, through fresh annexations, transferring property wealth and political power from the Town to the bigger City.

It's an extension of service and influence by the same City water utility whose staff and consultants put together the diversion plan - - under the recently-defeated Mayor, to be fair.

So should anyone be surprised that the Town is striking back by using what public powers it still command?

The City is committed to its diversion plan, though it has yet to transmit it to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for the first in a long series of environmental and legal reviews.

You have to wonder, however, whether the pitfalls were minimized at Waukesha's City Hall before the Lake Michigan diversion course was chosen.

And whether the City will be open to options, or has it closed them all off and dug in for the fight, come what may?


Ron R said...

The aldermen want Waukesha to do what MIlwaukee does, return untreated or partially treated sewage to Lake Michigan whenever ther is more than .1" rain. Returning treated water would put an undue burden on Milwaukee to fix it's sewage problems.

James Rowen said...

I think we both know that the MMSD is spending humdreds of millions of dollars to add capacity to the system, and that overflows have been cut dramatically - - making MMSD the envy of many other Great Lakes cities.

Waukesha has decided not to send its waste water back through the MMSD system because it does not want to incur that piping cost, making Underwood Creek the cheap daily, 24/7 alternative.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this deal is happening. But for the sake of argument say hypothetically they get the water.

Does Waukesha mix sanitary and storm sewers like Milwaukee? If not why would they have rain mixing with sewage? If not for a total power outage, how will raw sewage ever bypass the wastewater plant? Even if it lost power it could temporarily divert to the Fox River.

The treated wastewater into Underwood Creek would not be different from the water MMSD discharges into Lake Michigan, as they are this very moment, and every second of every day. This talk of homemade snicker bars floating down the river and chemicals contaminating the soil is a bit extreme.

It would be beneficial for the Milwaukee county board to have a chemist explain to them the water quality of the treated wastewater before they vote based on the idea that stinky sewage will be flushed from the toilet straight to the creek.

jbanske said...

I am one of the organizers of the Group Recalling Chairman Tallinger and Supervisor Smart for their vote in the Town of Waukesha that opened up an easier pathway for the City to develop wells in our Town. Only in the face of this recall are they making an after the bell effort to put in place the last protection available. Too Bad they didn't follow all the experts advice and place LAYERS of protection instead of this last one

As for the City...a bigger bully the State of Wisconsin might not have. It is not just that they bully bordering neighbors, but they have managed to bully the entire County and in some fashion the State. If you want to see us waste most of 54 million dollars look at the costs for the Waukesha West Bypass for the Town part of the project. Then look at the current traffice patterns along with the Smart growth plan for development through the year 2035 and you will see that NO where in that hot mess is there a need for this road in this Town.
Maybe the City officials should play "SIMCITY" and learn how to utilize their resources properly and they would not have so many problems...budget/taxes..water...congestion...urban sprawl the list goes on...

James Rowen said...

To Jbanske;

I will repost this item to draw attention to your comment.

Can you leave additional contact information for others who may want to get in touch with you?

jbanske said...

People wishing to get involved or contact us can reach me at or 414.350.7394 and they can visit the website of the Advisory Group at

James Rowen said...

Thanks for the information.

I did repost some earlier fererences,and you are free to use this blog as a communications tool.

James Rowen said...

Sorry for the typo.

Last sentence in comment should read:

I did repost some earlier references, and you are free to use this blog as a communications tool.