Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Waukesha Water Issue Has Broader Audience Than Us Locals

Media in southeastern Wisconsin are replete with coverage of the Waukesha water diversion issue. Laurel Walker of the Journal Sentinel weighs in, for example, here.

And certainly the issue is local, and what we think of as regional:

Can Waukesha find a willing partner to sell it water diverted from Lake Michigan - - Milwaukee, Oak Creek or Racine - - so there is delivery if Waukesha's formal diversion application is approved?

Will the DNR browbeat the Town of Waukesha in to the City's diversion application?

How expensive will the plan become if Milwaukee is not the supplier, and can a negotiation between Milwaukee and Waukesha get started despite conditions Waukesha and the DNR have rejected, at least for now?

But remember that there are other audiences and decision-makers farther away, and they are extremely important in the final analysis - - in fact, can make or break the application.

For Waukesha to receive the diversion, all eight Great Lakes governors must give their approval, and Canadian provincial leaders along with First Nation officials there are permitted input, though not a vote, as the Great Lakes are a shared resource held in trust, with no owner.

This much larger regional review - - beyond the border at 124th St. or the authority of the DNR - - is where critical issues like Waukesha's plan to return the water as treated, wastewater, or Waukesha's interest in sending water beyond its current borders to four smaller municipalities gets sticky.

And where the DNR's support for the wider distribution - - hung on the very thin reed of mapping decisions by SEWRPC, an advisory regional planning body run by unelected officials - - could easily raise eyebrows, and worse, in the other states.

The Waukesha application is the precedent-setter under a 2008 statutory Compact, and all the reviewers in the others states, and in Canada, are likely to follow every word and comma in the submission.

And in the DNR's processes and findings, too, because when the application goes out for the wider review, it goes with the DNR seal of approval, too.

A few years ago, the DNR sent out a smaller diversion request on behalf of New Berlin to the other Great Lakes states and Canadian regulators for an informal, courtesy review - - a different set of standards applied - - and some tough comments delayed final approval.

You can read some of that, here, below, and factor that history into what lies ahead as Waukesha and the DNR make decisions that will be vetted by regulatory reviewers from Minnesota to New York to Canada with the power to say "yes" or "no."

New York: On Aug. 15, New York officials said the application was without key studies, complete data, adequate water supply descriptions, enough system and geological maps and “descriptions of the situation and feasible options.” New York opined that there was “no evidence that the applicant is aware of or familiar with the full range of applicable state and national regulations, laws, agreements or treaties” and cited other deficiencies or possible inaccuracies. Additionally, New York observed that “the statement of no cumulative impacts is unsupported by any data in the document and does not address potential cumulative impacts to Lake Michigan water levels, shoreline, other users, water-dependent natural resources, etc.”

Illinois: On July 14, Illinois officials suggested the application could be strengthened with data of “forecasts of future water use, both inside and outside the Great Lakes basin.” Illinois also suggested that New Berlin extend its sprinkling ban, evaluate the effectiveness of its conservation planning, and expand its search for well-water alternatives to its proposed Lake Michigan diversion that could eliminate the need for a diversion.

Michigan: On Sept. 25, the state of Michigan said it would not begin a formal review until a full-scale diversion application was received. On Oct. 31, its attorney general said that without a formal application meeting federal standards provided by the U.S. Water Resources Development Act, New Berlin could not proceed.
And all must say "yes" for Waukesha to move forward.

1 comment:

WATER WARS said...

It would appear that Walkersha and the DNR is working in their arrogant and selfish vacume. What's even worse is that they seem to be clueless to the ramifications of ramrodding this process without careful review. Will Walkersha continue with their ISLAND mentality? Will their selfdestruct mentality continue. Will their babies bathe in radon infused water. Will there be widespread panic?

Finally- based on Walkerhsa's and the Walker DNR's unwillingness to make decisions and history of uncompromising authoritative my way or the highway approach to government will this end up in the courts at the federal level?