Monday, June 21, 2010

Journal Sentinel, On Waukesha Water...Hits And Misses

I figured the Journal Sentinel would do just what it did with its Sunday editorial about Waukesha's request for a diversion of Great Lakes water:

A) Prompt Waukesha to answer the Department of Natural Resources' staff questions and concerns and B) take new Mayor Jeff Scrima to task, as the paper says, for not getting on board the application express.

I agree with the editorial board that the application has to be improved, as the DNR basically demanded by returning the document to Waukesha because the application is a precedent-setting appeal for a resource held in the public trust..

The DNR should be commended for its stewardship.

After all, these are the Great Lakes.


I'm disappointed that the paper did not call for greater transparency in the application's re-writing, a process that began after the Council approved it on April 8th, which by necessity will continue due to the DNR's requested information, data and analysis, but which the water utility's general manager has said will not constitute a new application.

Reinforcing the utility's position that what will go back to the DNR is not a new application.

Does that sound like transparency?

Without pressure from the big paper in the state, it appears to me that the utility - - and its allies elsewhere in the non-Mayoral sectors of city government - - are likely to continue this power play.

The resistance to transparency has dogged Waukesha's quest for a Great Lakes diversion since the city got caught in 2006 having twice asked Gov. Jim Doyle through a confidential memo for permission to divert Lake Michigan water - - and the Water Utility, which is in charge of writing the current application, has yet to fully erase that tendency.

And I think the editorial board a little too easily takes at face value the case made by the Waukesha Water Utility in its application that, after extensive study, that the Lake Michigan plan is proven to trump the alternatives.

If that were the case, the DNR would not so strongly have returned the application for more work.

In other words, the issue is more than Mayor Scrima's skepticism about the application - - as environmental organizations have pointed out for months.

And I still believe that the Town of Waukesha, Pewaukee and Genesee should be heard from, as the plan incorporates them into the Waukesha utility's service territory.

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