Thursday, August 25, 2011

Whitefish Bay's Water Woes Tell Important Fiscal And Political Story

Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin is a small, traditional and comfy Milwaukee-area suburb and village just to the north and east of the big city, but its storm and sewer infrastructure has been overwhelmed by heavy rains that have validated Midwestern climate-change predictions about the arrival of more frequent, heavier and costly rain events.

The science says it all.

New research summarized here projects significant consequences for Wisconsin as soon as the next few decades, increasing in severity into the middle and end of this century...

Toward the end of the century, if current pollution trends continue, projected effects in the state include:

Far more scorching summers

• Every summer in Wisconsin would be hotter than 1988—the hottest summer during the historical baseline.
• Milwaukee would experience more than 55 days per summer with highs over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) and more than 22 days with highs over 100°F.
• Milwaukee would face at least one heat wave per summer like the one that killed hundreds in Chicago in 1995...

Dangerous storms and flooding

• Heavy rains would become more common throughout the year, leading to a greater incidence of flash flooding.

• Winters and springs, when the flood risk is already high, would become 25 percent wetter.
So Whitefish Bay, having been hit by floods and losses, is now considering which of the expensive options to choose to minimize the inflow of water into basements and the outflow of property tax dollars and borrowings to pay for it.

Give the north shore Village of Whitefish Bay credit for moving past hand-wringing or griping to planning and now action.

Adding to the dilemma is the shrink-government mentality of the conservative leadership strutting around the legislature and Governor's office.

Driven by ideology, they have limited spending by local governments and simultaneously are unfriendly to state-financed lending that can assist localities faced with necessary, but huge infrastructure needs and thus the inevitable bills.

It's a political and financial choke hold, regardless of real-world realities - - financial, scientific, natural, environmental, political.

New and upgraded sewer connections, modernized systems and overflow management staffing and technology is all extremely costly, as Whitefish Bay knows and others across the county and regional will confront.

Doing nothing or cutting corners, is not an option. The science says this is just the beginning.

This is precisely the time and circumstance in which government's unique and critical role can and must come into play and must be encouraged.

The alternative is more than damaged rec rooms or washed-out sidewalks: at stake and at real risk are the integrity of entire communities and the moral and political philosophies that keep our municipalities appealing and vibrant.

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