The City of Waukesha has been preparing since December 2, 2010 information about its controversial application for a Lake Michigan diversion requested by the Department of Natural Resources, yet the lengthy submission last week to the DNR is still missing a crucial piece.
The application, should the DNR move it along, must receive the unanimous approval of all eight Great Lakes under a 2008 binding Compact. This is the first such application, so all eyes across the region and in two Canadian provinces are on the City of Waukesha, its processes and the DNR's, too.
What's missing is word from the neighboring Town of Waukesha about whether that smaller, more rural community wants to be included in the proposed new water supply territory as mapped out in City's application for the Great Lakes diversion.
On page one of the water supply section of the submitted information, the City says that issue is "pending."
And chose to send the application information to the DNR without the Town's final decision.
"Moving forward, [city water utility manager Dan] Duchniak said, the Town of Waukesha remains in the future water service area that is in the application. The application can be modified after the town makes a decision.
“The DNR and I had decided that we would continue with the application as is,” Duchniak said. “In the event that they do not wan [sic] to be included in this, we would just remove it.”
"Pending" barely scratches the surface of the history of this delay, or the issues behind it; leaving it out of the now-heavily-edited application is a little like paying an architect to prepare blueprints for your dream house, but leaving out part of the foundation and a support-beam.
Whether the Town should be included in the application's water supply territory map is not a new issue, so its omission from this new submission to the DNR continues to beg the question of how and the City and regional planning commission, (SEWRPC), decided to add the Town to application's water service map without the Town's input, or a hearing, more than a year ago.
The map expands the land area of the Waukesha water service map by 80%.
Should the Town ultimately say "yes," does that make the municipality an applicant for the diversion, with all the related benefits, rights and responsibilities, too, or does the City speak for and represent the Town moving forward for what will be decades of planning and supply implementation?
If the Town were to say "no," would that then reduce the size of the City's projected daily diversion of 10.9 million gallons of water (right now it averages 6.9 million gallons used daily) and to the requested, upper-end, emergency allotment of 18.5 million gallons of water daily?
Would a "no" from the Town require substantive re-writing and analysis of the efficacy of potential alternative sources now dismissed in the application as inadequate?
Water politics in the Town over the last year have been consequential: there was a recall of Town board members believed too sympathetic with the City's water supply issues, successful litigation to limit the City's exploration for water in the Town, and a commitment to a comprehensive public participation by Town residents about whether to remain in the City's diversion plan.
Yet the City decided to go ahead and send in its long-anticipated information to the DNR without the Town's decision.
With a year already burned off the review calender with few results so far, the City is rolling the dice with the DNR and the other states.
And is handing ammo to skeptics in and outside of the City about its case for the diversion.
And is giving the Town some leverage over the application's review, timetable and ultimate viability.