Saturday, April 30, 2011

Waukesha's Amended Great Lakes Diversion Plan Underscores Why Regulation Is A Public Necessity

The City of Waukesha has submitted massive amounts of data, analyses and argument to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to supplement the City's year-old application for a Great Lakes pipeline and up to 18.5 million gallons of water daily.

You can read the new material, in four sections, at the Waukesha Water Utility website, here.

In summary, the information is in response to a December 2, 2010 communication to Waukesha from the DNR in which 49 questions and issues were raised by the DNR about the application.

The information sent back to the DNR in response validates the findings in the original application - - that the Lake Michigan option is the best among several potential alternatives to provide the City with a new water supply.

So here is the task for the DNR, since its role is to assess the application and decide whether it meets the standards for diversions in the Great Lakes Compact of 2008 and is worthy of consideration by the other seven Great Lakes states, as unanimous approval is required among all eight states before a diversion could be implemented:

Are Waukesha's conclusions, and thus its multiple in-house and paid consultant studies certifiably complete and accurate in the public interest - - that is, across an eight-state region that shares management responsibility for the Great Lakes with Canada? (One example among many.)

The DNR will have to apply aggressively all its evaluative resources to the application. lest the spirit and letter of state law and the new Compact be minimized or defeated in the first diversion application of its kind?

The DNR has the personnel to carry out such an evaluation - - though recent senior staff resignations arguably have weakened the agency - - but can it be freed from political restraints or direction to assure the public that the process is fair and science-driven?

Given the new, anti-regulatory leadership at the agency under Scott Walker, the quality of this precedent-setting review is an open question - - but one that can be resolved in favor of the public interest and Great Lakes stewardship if Walker's new DNR's management team  demonstrates its transparency and hands-off involvement in favor of technical and objective assessment.

This is why we have government regulation in the first place, and must argue for and support it - - and not just at the DNR - - despite the clamor from the Right against it.

Walker's first round of appointees to the agency leadership and the DNR board suggest this is a tall order for state government right now, and thus Wisconsin conservation and Public Trust Doctrine advocates, and other believers in a positive role for government, will have to step up their scrutiny of the process.


Trotter said...

Let's agree on working together on a regional transportation system before we start giving them water. Yes they need water but we thirst for jobs and an efficient
mass transportation system to reach those jobs in Waukesha and Milwaukee County. Money for water is not enough.

Anonymous said...

Well put Mr. Rowen.

I do have questions already that are of interest to Riverkeeper. Concerning the average daily return flow data to Underwood Creek; It seems that the data simulating the what-if for the years 2005 and 2008 imply a significant annual flow increase (RF Exibit A1). During peak periods in excess of 1000 cfs the water flow from the WWTP would divert to the Fox River for a day. This data is based on a diversion supply of 7 million gallons per day. What's the return flow plan long term for a withdrawl application seeking 18.5 million gallons per day?
I'm not a gound water hydrologist, but the amount of water in that creek anually will create an expanded saturation zone potentially increasing the risk for much easier flooding conditions, silt carry, and bank errosion.

Bill McClenahan said...

Because of the intentionally confusing terms used in the blog, Anonymous is comparing current daily AVERAGES with future PEAK days. The requested average day is 10.9 million gallons per day at build-out, not 18.5 mgd. 18.5 mgd is the peak day at build-out.

James Rowen said...

Maybe it's time, Bill, for you to ID yourself as Waukesha's lead, paid PR consultant on the diversion issues you often comment on here.