Time might have been on The Rolling Stones side, but is it on Waukesha's?
Before we discuss the continuing delays in Waukesha's disclosure of diverted water sale offers from Oak Creek and Racine (Waukesha wants to supply four neighboring communities with diverted water; Milwaukee declined to negotiate on those terms), and delays in signing a firm contract with a seller, and delays in the DNR's environmental review of and potential approval of the whole shebang - - let's ask this question:
What is the status and credibility of the 18-month planning "buffer" Waukesha said it had incorporated into its application for a Lake Michigan diversion more than two years ago - - as a hard June, 2018 legal deadline looms for the city to provide a new, radium-free water supply for its users?
The planning buffer was an internal benchmark, but it also served as a lever on public opinion and on communities that might be considered sellers - - presumed in the plan's $164 million projected cost to be Milwaukee, closest of the three potential sellers to Waukesha - - and was a pressure point also on the DNR and eventually on the other seven Great Lakes required under a controlling multi-state Compact to give unanimous consent to Waukesha's application.
This is how it the buffer was described by the Waukesha Patch in November, 2011:
When the Common Council first approved submitting the application [in the spring of 2010], an 18-month buffer was put into the application to allow for any snags. Because of delays, that buffer has been cut down, allowing for no more significant delays as construction needs to be completed by June 2018.The multiple delays, as well as the evaporating buffer, prompted me to write this for context last month:
“By the end of next year, we will need a decision,” said Duchniak during the meeting.
The DNR does not expect to have the technical review and environmental impact statement finished before December, according to its website. A second round of public comment on the application will occur after the documents are drafted.
I remember when Waukesha said it was moving forward with its application in May, 2009, but canceled a special Council meeting about it later that year.And I had noted that in the spring of 2010, after earlier delays, Waukesha indicated it hoped the DNR could finish its review of the application in 90-120 days, which might have kept the buffer in place.
And changed consultants late in the game.
Then got its final, final application to the DNR in May, 2010.
Keep these self-inflicted delays in mind when Waukesha goes back to hurry-up mode and jams the DNR, and the Great Lakes Council of Governors (all eight must approve the application if and when the DNR gives a final OK, perhaps next year after environmental review, hearings, etc.), for quick action on the application because Waukesha agreed with the US EPA to meet a legal deadline and provide higher-quality water service by June, 2018.
Then chose the difficult path of qualifying for a Lake Michigan diversion under the new Great Lakes Compact of 2008 with a precedent-setting application after ruling out all other alternatives.
Fast forward to last night, where the Waukesha Water Utility Commission and the Common Council heard closed-door presentations on negotiations for a water deal with the cities of Oak Creek and Racine, but as Don Behm of the Journal Sentinel indicates, paper work about a potential deal with a preferred seller could be in hand by the end of October.
But note the qualifiers:
The timetable calls for the Waukesha Common Council and the preferred supplier's city council to approve by the end of October a formal memorandum of understanding that summarizes details of an eventual water agreement.That's one step above a handshake, but way below a signed contract.
In other words, a crucial piece of a complete diversion application - - an identified seller - - is still some time and several hearing and approval steps away.
And since the location of the water seller will determine where the water's return flow discharge point will be - - yet another key piece of a completed application because the Great Lakes Compact requires the return point be as close as possible to the point of the diversion's origin - - the DNR's review and completion of an Environmental Impact Statement is still some time away, too.
If the origin point is Oak Creek, does returning the water as treated discharge through Wauwatosa's Underwood Creek, and a stretch of the Menomonee River through Milwaukee to the lakefront comply with the Compact?
And the inevitable questions or objections from Wauwatosa, and Milwaukee?
All of which waters down, or defeats, the buffer period, let alone the June, 2018 completion deadline.