Friday, January 21, 2011

Mission Implausible: Waukesha Asks Neighbors To Approve Lake Michigan Water Plan - - After The Plan Is Written

You look at the expensive, drawn-out, going-nowhere process (sic) for years that the City of Waukssha has used to pursue Lake Michigan water - - secret applications to the Governor, delays, switching application consultants, cancelling a public session last fall with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - - and you think, "Is there any misstep that this team of pro-diversion advisers, bureaucrats and Common Council members hasn't yet made?"

Here's the latest, and it's amazing - - but first a bit of background:

The draft diversion application approved by the City of Waukesha last April comes with a key element - -  a mapped water service plan created by the regional planning commission (SEWRPC) - -  that includes portions of the smaller, and more rural Town of Genesee and Town of Waukesha.

Overall, the map ropes in a land mass 80% larger than the City's current water service territory.

Neither the application or the proposed new and expanded water service plan and map were drawn or approved with input or approval from the Towns - - no hearings, no meetings, no votes in or by the Towns - - yet the Waukesha Water Utility wrote to both Towns on January 12th requesting "review and approval" of the water service plan.

Who knows if the Towns want the water, or any part of the application?

The City is making the request of the Towns because it says in the letter that state law and the Great Lakes Compact under which the diversion application made require evidence that "the governing body" of a municipality included in the water service plan has given its approval to the plan.

The City of Waukesha asks the Towns for a response by March 14.

In other words, there is a known legal and procedural need for a public process - - but the City of Waukesha is looking for that from the Towns of Genesee and Waukesha after it researched, drafted, edited, wrote, rewrote, and itself approved the application with plan and map before sending the whole package to the DNR.

Who remembers "ex post facto" (Latin for "after the fact") from high school civics?

For some time, I had argued that the way the map was created, its implications for sprawl and conflict with the Towns - - not to mention how it would strike the other states that must approve the diversion under the Compact - - made it the application's weakest link.

And in a different posting about questions the DNR raised months ago about the application,  I made this observation about Waukesha and the neighoring Towns:

"Looks to me like the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, in its preliminary, 49 detailed question areas for the City of Waukesha about the diversion application, wants those other communities brought into the process - - but how is that going to unfold since they have been left out of the loop so far?"
And why didn't SEWRPC or the City of Waukesha do that from the outset?"
The letters also say that if the Towns do not give their approval they will be deleted from the map and the plan - - which, I would assume, will be the subject of a public process - - as the Compact and Wisconsin state implementing law are heavy on transparency - - both at the regional planning commission and by the Waukesha Common council.

That's because since shrinking the water service map would no doubt result in a recalculated amount of divested water sought, related changes in plan costs, return flow impacts, rate calculations, etc.


eddee said...

Sounds like a shell game, hiding where the water will end up being used.

Anonymous said...

What citizen representation did the Town of Waukesha and the Town of Genesee have on the Waukesha Water Utility Board before or after their inclusion into the water utility service area?

James Rowen said...

To Anon: Zero. That's the point.

Anonymous said...

So what's the kiss while they're being assaulted?

Boxer said...

Anon 10:12 pm: Not only zero representation, but the townships were only notified by letter (where they were the CC's and not the addressees!) from SEWRPC after the lines had been drawn and decisions already made.

Anonymous said...

A Southeast portion of the City of Pewaukee south of I-94 is also in the service area of the Waukesha Water Utility. Were we notified as well?

James Rowen said...

On the Pewaukee question: I see no involvement of Pewaukee in the record, but somewhere along the line Waukesha has said it included this portion of Pewaukee at the request of the DNR - - but again, I don't see a record of that, either.

So good, relevant question.

Anonymous said...

It's also a recommendation in the SEWRPC report.

Add the City of Pewaukee to the list of zero citizen representation on the Waukesha Water Utility Board.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget a portion of the Town of Genesee now included in the Waukesha Water Utility service area!