Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More Reporting From Waukesha's Water Meeting Monday Night

I earlier posted an item culled from a PR-driven public meeting Monday night where Waukesha officials discussed their stalled application for a Great Lakes diversion, and how they might approach the City of Milwaukee over the potentially-vexing matter of Milwaukee's insistence on a water sale contract with a business-and-jobs "non-compete" clause.

That posting is here.

But I want to pass along some other information about the session.

First, here is Don Behm's Journal Sentinel account. It contains important financial data, so it's a keeper for your archives.

Second, I hope officials post the meeting video so you can watch Common Council President Paul Ybarra pose what he oddly called his "high-level" questions.

Which were actually softballs tossed to water utility general manager Dan Duchniak. They sounded, for want of a better word, scripted.

Third, Duchniak said he was still hoping to hear back about the application from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in 90 days.

Maybe hearing back means, "we've started" the application review in detail, but in reality, it wont be much more than that - - and the clock is winding down against the city.

It is facing multi-state reviews, probable routing and construction hassles, a possible plethora of lawsuits and a looming, fixed, legally-binding June 2018 water supply quality compliance deadline.

The DNR has yet to begin its full-fledged review, nor has it launched the related process of crafting an environmental impact statement.  Not to mention scheduling and holding public hearings on that EIS and the rest of the application.

I checked the website today that the DNR has established to track the application, and it continues to make this statement (see the EIS tab):

"The City of Waukesha submitted an application to the DNR on May 20, 2010 (available on the Proposal tab) that the DNR has subsequently determined is incomplete. On June 8, 2010, DNR Secretary Matt Frank sent a letter to Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima detailing a number of deficiencies in the City's application as submitted. In his letter, Secretary Frank informed Mayor Scrima that the identified deficiencies must be resolved before the DNR would accept and review the application. Accordingly, the DNR has also suspended its work on the scoping process for the EIS associated with the City’s potential diversion proposal. This page will be updated if and when the City of Waukesha cures the deficiencies in its application and the DNR accepts a revised application and begins its review."
Bottom line: There are complex, unavoidable and time-consuming procedures inherent in a quest for a precedent-setting diversion application.

At one of its earlier public sessions, city officials and the public in Waukesha were warned by Peter Annin, a neutral Great Lakes expert whom Waukesha invited in for a presentation, that regardless of what was in the eventual diversion application, Waukesha should expect in a "brutal" process that its application at some point would be turned back by a reviewer or regulator.

And then what?

Duchniak later in the meeting said the city had built into its application planning an 18-month buffer that would include time for a constructive, "iterative" back-and-forth between the city and the DNR - - then acknowledged that the five months elapsed since the city finally forwarded its application to the DNR in May was "eating into that buffer."

Also do not forget a) that not all the other Great Lakes states have their Great Lakes Compact implementing laws and rules in place; b) if one state says "no," the application is denied.

And c) - - if there is unanimous approval from the Great Lakes states, a water sale contract has to be negotiated with either Milwaukee, Oak Creek and Racine.

Location makes Milwaukee the most affordable of the three, but there are the matters of Milwaukee's"non-compete" issue and interest in tying a water sale to cooperation with Waukesha on issues like housing and transportation.

As to the latter - - I sense zero interest in Waukesha linking water to cooperative socio-economic planning and implementation with Milwaukee.

At some point, "attainability" is going to become the yardstick by which progress on the diversion application is measured.


Fay Amerson said...

The citizens attending this "special meeting" had to sit through 1.5 hours of the City Alderman questioning the staff. It was painful and disappointing to witness the Alderman ask these scripted questions. This must be the making of some new reality show? Seriously, the Alderman have direct access to the staff and a cadre of highly compensated consultants. Can't they just pick up the phone and call them. I am looking forward to the REAL public hearings, when these Alderman have to get in line with the rest of us.
Thank you for your wonderful reporting and thoughtful comments. You are providing a valuable public service and venue for public comments and an intellectual exchange during this agonizing journey with the City of Waukesha.

Fay Amerson
Resident of the projected Water Service Area for the City of Waukesha, ( See Exhibit 2-2, of the Application for Lake Michigan Water Supply, AKA: The Lake Michigan Diversion Application).

James Rowen said...

Thank you, Fay. You have been at this a lot longer, so kudos to you and your stamina.

I was shocked at the gloss: fancy story boards, a brace of consultants and employees, a new handout, but really no new information.

Akin to resume-padding: put another mark in the line of public meetings held. Form and no substance.

Anonymous said...

What was the purpose of that meeting? The application has been submitted and nothing changed factually.

Nobody's getting a Tony for that performance.

James Rowen said...

I think it was pure PR to boost the number of public meetings devoted to the application.

All form. No substance, or certainly no news to announce.