Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Still Nothing Happening With Waukesha's Lake Michigan Diversion Application

Waukesha's application for a diversion of Lake Michigan water has turned into the policy equivalent of Waiting For Godot.

I checked Monday on the dedicated website put up by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources about Waukesha's long-stalled application and there are still no announcements by the DNR of any formal reviews beginning.

Or announcements of even the initial steps in what, by law, is a lengthy environmental impact statement process that will include a tough look at Waukesha's plan to send its wastewater back to Lake Michigan via Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa, then Milwaukee's Menomonee River and valley.

The application was submitted to the DNR on May 20, but the DNR said soon after, and continues to say, per the website, that the application has deficiencies not yet cured.

Last week's dog and pony show about the application sponsored by the Waukesha Water Utility and Common Council appears not to have moved the DNR to act.

Amazingly, some of the DNR's concerns with the application were raised repeatedly and separately by environmental organizations, including the Waukesha Environmental Action League - - with members and experts right there in Waukesha.

Imagine where this application might in very complex, never-before-initiated process if the Waukesha Water Utility and Common Council were as open to input from those sources as they are wedded to the congesting advice of consultants and attorneys who have helped the City burn through close to one-third of the 18-month rewrite "buffer" incorporated in the application.

An application that still must have multiple hearings, meetings and vetting by all eight Great Lakes states - - with advice considered from two Canadian provinces - - along with potential pre-construction negotiations to find a willing water selling community, plus routing and construction timetables that must lead to a functioning system by June, 2018.


Anonymous said...

The only deadline associated with a June 2018 is radium compliance.

James Rowen said...

That is a good point, though to shift to another method of compliance by the deadline, the city would have to abandon the application. I was writing in the context of meeting the deadline via the application.

Bu thank you.

Max Berger said...

What do you mean "Nothing Happening", James? It's just the latest in application games: Application Chicken! Who will blink first?

To begin play, Waukesha deals out hundreds of thousands of ratepayer dollars to law firms, engineering consultants and lobbying firms who team up to make a shiny application that is long on pages and short on substance. Waukesha pronounces the application complete and submits it to the DNR. Game on!

The application ball is in your court, DNR. The DNR responds in a vaguely-worded letter saying that the application is incomplete and lacks in many necessary details required by the Great Lakes Compact. Strategy note: DNR, how do you play it? Cash the check? Don't cash the check? Return the check? You decide, but whatever you do, it will be ignored by the media and misrepresented by Waukesha.

Back to you, Waukesha! Now you hold a few staged media events, call them "public information meetings" and start a media blitz consisting of Guest Opinions ghost-written by the public relations firm. You send the DNR another letter: "We say the application is complete. Now approve it!"

When you land on one of the Crapshoot! squares, pick up an exciting game-changer card with one of these fun messages:
"Scott Walker is elected Wis Gov"
"Tom Barrett is elected Wis Gov"
"City of Wauwatosa files suit against DNR for issuing wastewater discharge permit to Underwood Creek"
"Great Lakes Council of Gov's unanimously denies application"
"Ruekert and Mielke is awarded no-bid contract to build Waukesha-to-Wauwatosa pipeline"
"Racine reverses position: Now wants to become 'Waukesha's toilet'"
"Schreiber and Associates proven to be pulling the strings on Alderpuppets Tortomasi, Ybarra and Francoeur"
. . . and many more. Blank cards are provided so that you can write your own.

To win Application Chicken, you must have a regional-sized ego, a healthy disrespect for public opinion, an ability to lie convincingly (and to keep track of your falsehoods, not an easy job as there will be many), and the fortitude to spend millions of taxpayer dollars.

Win you must. It's not only the Great Lakes at stake, it's your reputation, your career, your ego and Waukesha County developers' millions at stake too. Failure is not an option.

** Over-sized egos and $250 million dollar pay-to-play fee not included.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if abandoning the application is necessary or required to reduce the radium level. Scrubbers can be installed and a treatment plant can deal with dissolved solids before June 2018. If, decades from now, those west of the divide still haven't learned to manage their resources through regional cooperation and conservation they could then apply for a diversion and make a case. There is no way anyone can make a case about shortages with the City of Waukesha having a multiple alternative "plan B" and SEWRPC with a regional multiple alternative "plan B".
Let's get on with the DNR public hearings.