Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Skimpy Record Supporting Controversial Waukesha Water Service Map

Milwaukee has asked the DNR to step in and referee Milwaukee's disagreement with Waukesha over how Waukesha's proposed new and broadened water service area's boundaries should be drawn as part of Waukesha's application for a Lake Michigan water diversion.

Milwaukee is a potential water seller to Waukesha, but does not want to extend the sale beyond Waukesha to portions of four smaller communities - - The Towns of Genesee, Waukesha and Delafied, and the City of Pewaukee - - that Waukesha included in its application's water service area - - an area that was mapped by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission,(SEWRPC).

I've already opined that the DNR has evaporating credibility to referee the dispute.

What follows is more of the story about how the controversial map got drawn that has escaped much publicity.

The dots I've connected tell a lot about how this map was created, and also about how major public policies can be born and set in motion almost invisibly by technocrats and obscure committees before their work hits the front pages, decision-making by elected officials and public budgets that impact everyone.

To wit:

When the dispute between Waukesha and Milwaukee broke out a few weeks ago over the definition of the SEWRPC-drawn water service territory, the Journal Sentinel said that SEWRPC had created the water map for Waukesha with the input of others, including the DNR. Wrote Don Behm, in a Sunday story:
Many of the property owners there [in the Town of Genesee] probably will seek municipal water because private wells tap into a shallow aquifer contaminated with fecal bacteria and nitrates from private septic systems. The DNR and Waukesha County asked the commission to include this area in Waukesha's water service area.
So I sent an inquiry to SEWRPC Executive Director Ken Yunker and asked about the referenced DNR and Waukesha County requests to SEWRPC, since earlier I'd asked for records about the creation of the map and had seen nothing indicating input from the DNR or Waukesha County:
Sent: Monday, July 02, 2012 12:23 PM
To: Yunker, Kenneth R.
Subject: Fw: Re: FW: Open Records request
Ken - - I'd like you to review this email string in light of this line in Don Behm's Sunday story - - http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/clock-ticking-on-starting-waukesha-milwaukee-water-talks-kb5u6j5-160968855.html - - about how the Waukesha service territory was crafted by SEWRPC:

"The DNR and Waukesha County asked the commission to include this area in Waukesha's water service area."
Yunker responded the same day, July 2nd and cited a request about water service territory map drafting made by a DNR staffer at the SEWRPC Regional Water Supply Advisory Committee meeting in March, 2007 - - (see committee minutes in pdf, here) - - that a portion of the Town of Genesee be included in future Waukesha water service territory maps. Wrote Yunker:
WDNR staff, at a meeting of the Regional Water Supply Planning Advisory Committee, requested that the special well casing area in the Town of Genesee be added to the Waukesha water supply service area. I can recall WDNR staff making this recommendation at a Committee meeting and it should be part of the meeting minutes of the Committee.
The advisory committee minutes of March, 2007 indeed show this detail (again, here is the pdf, scroll to pages 12-13 March, 2007):
[Secretary’s Note:
Mr. [Charles] Czarkowski [of the DNR] provided a memorandum documenting additional areas to be considered for municipal water supply service. A copy of that memorandum is attached hereto as Exhibit C. The additional areas recommended to be considered have been mapped and, in some cases, added to the municipal water service areas. The revised maps and text are included in the revised version of Chapter IV provided with these minutes.]

In answer to another question by Mr. Czarkowski, Mr. Biebel indicated that areas designated by the WDNR within which special well casing were required because of groundwater contamination were not explicitly considered in the delineation of the urban service areas. However, he referred to Map IV-2 and noted that some of the proposed municipal service areas did include special well casing areas, such as the Lannon area. He noted that some of the special casing areas were located beyond the planned urban service areas and, thus, municipal services were not recommended to be extended to those outlying areas. Mr. Czarkowski indicated that he would provide to the Commission staff recommendations for the inclusion of other selected areas in the urban service areas in response to groundwater quality issues.
Then...scroll to page 20 of that cited "Exhibit C" - - it won't highlight, as appended on the SEWRPc web site - - and there you find a "suggestion" about including a part of the Town of Genesee in a proposed Waukesha water service territory map.

A "suggestion."

By a member of a technical advisory committee on water supply that was created by SEWRPC, itself an advisory, non-elected body, that met in the SEWRPC headquarters' basement-level conference room in Pewaukee.

Public meetings, yes. I went to many. But it was a process pretty much for insiders who wrote, debated and edited long, technical chapters and reports eventually turned into a final, advisory report.

And if DNR staffer Charles Czarkowski's "suggestion" is the policy directive from the DNR that the DNR and Waukesha say are part of what defeats Milwaukee's argument about redrawing the new water service map - - well, that is a very thin reed upon which to rest a controversial, region-roiling, precedent-setting Great Lakes diversion proposal, and to an extent, the amount and destination of some of the water sought.

I also asked SEWRPC Executive Director Yunker about the Waukesha County input into the Waukesha water map mentioned in the Journal Sentinel story.

And the reed got thinner.

On July 13, 2011, Yunker said:
We are not aware of any request from Waukesha County.

No comments: