Thursday, April 25, 2013

Water Council Co-Chair Calls For End To Chicago Diversion

Not much news was produced at the Milwaukee Press Club's water policy panel discussion "Lake Michigan: Whose Water is it? An In-Depth Look at the State’s Water Economy."

The press club's Thursday public luncheon was held at the Lake Michigan headquarters of Lake Express ferry at the Milwaukee Harbor.

But I thought it worth noting for the record that panelist Paul Jones, the executive board chairman at A. O Smith Corp. and co-chair of the Milwaukee-based Water Council, said he thought Chicago's daily water draw from the Great Lakes - - a major diversion that is not returned to Lake Michigan because of the reversal of the Chicago River many years ago - - was the greatest water challenge facing the region.

The Water Council recently dropped "Milwaukee" from its name as it emphasized the group's world-wide focus.

Jones said he thought the flow of the river should be reversed and there should be "a lot more noise made" about it.

The Chicago diversion has been upheld by the US Supreme Court.

No doubt, given the expenses of reversing the flow of the river and adding requisite treatment facilities to keep Lake Michigan clean, Jones' statement would greeted in Northern Illinois with a different kind of "noise."

The only other thing that grabbed my attention at the luncheon was that Waukesha anticipated spending $1 million a week on its diversion project, said pressclug event panelist Dan Duchniak, Waukesha's water utility general manager.

That's why that city's water rates will at least double over the next few years and why federal funding is being pursued, along with bonding and other revenues to pay for the project, Duchniak said.

Both Duchniak and press club luncheon panelist Eric Ebersberger, a DNR water official, agreed that the agency was carrying out a thorough review of Waukesha's diversion application - - the first under an eight-state, two-Canadian province Great Lakes water management Compact that was approved in 2008.

Waukesha is under a court order to provide a new water supply by June 30, 2018 - - a deadline that looks unattainable.

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