Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Always Figured Waukesha Wanted To Keep Its Deep Wells, And Now...

Talk about a moving target, as I have been saying for years:

Waukesha tells the DNR and the Journal Sentinel retaining some of its purportedly costly and antiquated and inadequate deep wells is possible, as a cheaper, back-up supply.

In May, 2009, I wrote:

Is Waukesha pledging to cap its existing deep wells, should it get permission to bring in Lake Michigan water? I don't think so.

Why not?
Because it wants to retain the capacity to fuel development, with the current wells as back-up.
Bingo,- - a "cheaper" back-up supply (the newspaper headline's writer's word) for some of the City's needs, and perhaps - - my speculation - - as capacity for growth, since Waukesha wants to supply some or all of Delafield, Genesee and the Town of Waukesha, as it expands its service territory by 80%, geographically.

Map, here.

And isn't the City opening the door to a conclusion that it does have less-costly alternatives to the Lake Michigan-only supply - - or at least to a portion of it - - thereby undercutting an application based on the Great Lakes Compact's 'no other reasonable alternative' standard?

I see policy-making based on wanting to have one's cake and eating it, too - - or at least a big piece.

And validating Mayor Jeff Scrima's position that a future water source can be created with a combination of local sources.

Also - - abandoning its deep wells also would mean writing off an investment in the wells and water treatment equipment.

Governmental agencies simply do not like shutting down and giving up infrastructure, and if some existing wells are retained, the water utility staff could make an easier case to its Commission that the equipment would be have to retained, maintained and upgraded, too.

Out in the heart of small-governland land, big has its advocates and place, too.


Anonymous said...

In front of a room full of witnessess at the public hearing in Pewaukee on Waukesha's application (including the writer of the J/S article referenced), the DNR was asked by a member of the audience asked during the Q&A period if Waukesha was required to cap it's wells if the diversion is approved. The DNR spokesperson said that only the deep wells were required to be permanently capped.
It's hard for me to believe that the DNR would publicly present 2 differing positions so critical to the approval of the application. The water utility has taken the position that Waukesha needs to abandon the deep wells because Waukesha needs to be radium compliant by 2018 but the radium comes from the deep wells.
The BS behind this application is deeper than than the aquifer. One could get the impression that this more about Jeff Scrima than a desire for Lake Michigan water.

Cheryl Nenn said...

Their whole environmental argument for getting a Lake Michigan diversion would also be undermined by them keeping the deep wells as a backup supply. their argument is that shutting down the deep aquifer allows for recharge of the deep aquifer and that this is an environmental benefit that outweighs any impacts from the diversion--like building pipelines to pump and return water and then dumping that water back to the Lake via Underwood Creek and the Menomonee River. They should not be allowed to keep those deep aquifers if DNR decides to give them a diversion. That would be ridiculous. Why don't they forgo a diversion now and use their deep aquifer water for industrial use and their shallow water for drinking water? If they are going to keep the deep aquifer anyway, this would be a more sustainable and cost-effective solution!

James Rowen said...

Agreed, both.

I think this is a blunder, strategically, but instructive.

Paul Furrer said...

James, everything we do is a blunder. Cheryl have a point but the recharge of the deep aquifer or adding flow to Underwood Creek and reducing flow to Vernon Marsh (why the Gamewarden/Forister wants that I don't know) are only side benefits. The main concern has always been to find a reliable, affordable, non-contaminated water source. If it wasn't for the court order (which we fought for years) we wouldn't be pursuing any of this until the aquifer turned into a brine like pickle-juice.

However, in a very real way, not using the deep wells but keeping them avaiable is abandoning them.

During my time on the Waukesha Council it had always been my hope that we would not be forced to throw-away tens or hundreds of millions of dollars worth of infrastructure to get a Great Lakes hookup. The DRN's willingness to discuss letting us keep what we have for emergencies could avoid the cost an extra pipe from Lake Michigan or more shallow wells. Especially now with our neighbors fighting so hard against shallow wells as an option.

It would be great if the $13M+ filtration we already installed could get us the radium free fix we need, even ten times that amount would be okay. But filtration won't work when the water becomes too brackish to filter.

As for Mayor Scrima, honest disagreements over policy can be distilled down to personalities but in this case it has not. In my option adding more filtration will not work for the 100 years Mayor Scrima has estimated. The draw-down on the deep aquifer is not sustainable. If we stay on our deep wells the next generation will be the ones' to cap them and request Great Lakes water. Alright, as a politician who would long be out of office when those chickens came home to roost the idea has cross my mind. Why not just kick the can down the road? I guess the Waukesha Common Council doesn't like the idea of paying for this fix twice.