Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SEWRPC Sets Fox River Management Body Straight About Waukesha Diversion Procedures

It isn't just getting fresh water to Waukesha from Lake Michigan that could cause regional conflicts.

What also happens to Waukesha's treated wastewater - - the return flow, or back end of the water supply cycle - - is also a matter of concern.

Plenty has been written already about return flow from Waukesha possibly making its way to Lake Michigan via Underwood Creek - - with perhaps some flow sent the other way to the Fox River only during major rain storms to prevent the Creek from flooding - - but now a body not heard from on the issues heretofore, and charged with managing the Fox River to the west is worried that cutting off that flow on a regular basis, as Waukesha would have to do, endangers the level and quality of the River.

It's a little wonky, and it would be helpful if the DNR on its Waukesha diversion web pages posted the entire exchange of letters (coding errors in the Fox River/SEWRFC document I received makes posting it here, in full, all but impossible), but the issue is important because it illustrates the complexities of rules and laws and regional cross-cuts governing or influencing Waukesha's precedent-setting diversion application.

So here's the gist of it:

A body called the Southeastern Wisconsin Fox River Commission, or SEWFRC - - differentiated in mission and makeup from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission  - - adopted its resolution No. 01-2001 expressing concerns about the impact on the Fox River should Waukesha switch to a Lake Michigan supply and cease discharging treated wastewater that currently helps maintain the river.

The resolution points out that the SEWFPC is responsible for:

...maintaining the navigability of the River and preserving a high quality fishery, inclusive of a number of endangered threatened and special concem species."
SEWRFC sent the resolution to Waukesha, with copies to SEWRPC on June 24, along with a letter indicating: 
"...we are opposed to any change from the present discharge schedule of treated effluent into the Fox River especially during low-flow periods.
The Fox River empties into the Mississippi River watershed and thus the Gulf of Mexico, not into the Great Lakes Basin.

So SEWRPC stepped in with a June 27th letter, below, and told the Fox River agency that Waukesha, under state law and the Great Lakes Compact, must the return diverted water to Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes, or there is no diversion.

I added italics to three key paragraphs to highlight what SEWRPC told the Fox River body - -  SEWRFC:
We are writing to reiterate the position of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) regarding management of treated wastewater discharges to the Fox River from the City of Waukesha under possible future conditions if the City were to receive all necessary approvals to divert water from Lake Michigan for public water supply purposes and if it were to construct the facilities necessary to effect such a diversion. 

As you are aware, the SEWRPC staff, as a non-voting member of the Southeastern Wisconsin Fox River Commission (SEWFRC), assisted the SEWFRC in developing Resolution No. 01-2011 (see attachment) to ensure that the resolution was consistent with the recommendations of SEWRPC Planning Report No. 52 (PR No. 52), A Regional Water Supply Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin, December 2010. 

Specifically, the seventh “WHEREAS” clause and the “THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED” clause of the resolution which address active management of possible future discharges from the Waukesha wastewater treatment plant under high flow conditions on the receiving stream and low flow conditions on the Fox River are consistent with the recommendations of SEWRPC PR No. 52, and therefore, accurately reflect the Regional Planning Commission’s position on these issues.
However, the third paragraph of the June 24 SEWFRC letter to Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima and Waukesha Water Utility Commission President Dan Warren transmitting Fox River Commission Resolution No. 01-2011 (see attachment) -- specifically, the statement of opposition “to any change from the present discharge schedule of treated effluent into the Fox River especially during low-flow periods” -- does not accurately reflect the position of the Regional Planning Commission and is also inconsistent with Resolution No. 01-2011.

Resolution No. 01-2011 and the recommendations set forth in Regional Planning Commission PR No. 52 both implicitly recognize that, if the City of Waukesha were to divert water from Lake Michigan, return flow to the Lake would be required under the both the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and State of Wisconsin Statutes. There can be no diversion without return flow. 

Thus, Fox River Commission Resolution No. 01-2011, the recommendations of SEWRPC PR No. 52, and the adopted position of the Regional Planning Commission are all at odds with the statement in the Fox River Commission’s letter regarding opposition to “any change from the present discharge schedule of treated effluent.”
It is requested that the Fox River Commission clarify its position on Waukesha wastewater discharges under a possible future scenario under which the City would receive approval to divert Lake Michigan water and construct the facilities to accomplish such a diversion, consistent with our comments above and with Fox River Commission Resolution No. 01-2011.  
Thank you for your consideration of our comments.
Michael G. Hahn, P.E., P.H.
Chief Environmental Engineer
Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
P.O. Box  1607
W239 N1812 Rockwood Drive
Waukesha, WI 53187-1607

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe that subject was brought up as an EIS concern to the DNR on page 13 of 17 on the DNR's website for the application.
"Many topics have been addressed concerning the application by the Waukesha Water Utility for a Great Lakes water diversion.

One topic I have not heard discussed is an EIS concerning the Fox river if the WWU should return all of the effluent it currently discharges down stream from the city. This volume of water to suddenly cease would seemingly have an adverse negative impact to aquatic life and property values along the Fox. Would it effect wetlands, or the recharging of aquifers?

Perhaps I'm mistaken about the inclusion of this information for consideration, but if not, please consider this a topic to be added to the scope of EIS."