Thursday, May 23, 2013

Well, That Only Took Four-And-A-Half-Years

Way back in December, 2008 - - before Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term as President, or Scott Walker was elected Governor, or the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl - -  the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission redrew a regional map and put most of the Town of Waukesha into a proposed water service territory run by the larger, neighboring City of Waukesha.

A redrawn map had been requested by the City for inclusion in an application to an eight-state body for a precedent-setting diversion of Lake Michigan water. State law says regional planning commissions - - unelected bodies in Wisconsin - - are the agencies to draw such maps.

Here is a link to the records of the City's request in August, 2008 and the SEWRPC follow-through four months later.

It was a decision with plenty of cost and policy impacts on development, water rates, water conservation planning and other municipal policies - - and plenty of political ramifications and monkey wrenches in regional water planning and inter-governmental cooperation, too.

You can see the map and other links about the issue - - a frequent topic on this blog - - in this 2010 post, for example.

Yet SEWRPC chose to make its mapping decision without a public meeting, or a hearing, and presented the map as a fait accompli to the Town in a list of CC'ed recipients.

Talk about a FUBAR.

The decision roiled relationships between the Town and the City.

Town Board members were recalled in 2010 by angry voters, and the newly-constituted Board, with that mandate, said it wanted most of the Town removed from the map - - thus affecting the amount of water the City would need to divert, and where outside its boundaries it might be sending a portion of the diversion.

Those are questions central to the application itself and whether it would be approved by the other states. A single "no" vote kills the application, and the City is under a court order to have a water supply in place by June, 2018 that complies with federal radium standards - - a deadline, given construction timetables if the application is approved that most likely will be missed.

The City has chosen a Lake Michigan supply to meet the federal standard; other options are available, but the City has ruled them out.

The application as filed with the DNR in 2010 called for the City of Milwaukee to be the probable supplier of the diverted water, but Milwaukee did not like the map because it called for sending diverted water to the Town and to other areas outside the City's limits.

Milwaukee asked SEWRPC to redraw the map - - objecting to diverting water for sprawl growth - -  but SEWPRC said the City of Milwaukee had no standing to make the request, and the DNR decided to get into the fray and sided with the City of Waukesha.

So you can add disturbed relationships between Milwaukee and Waukesha, and Milwaukee and the DNR/SEWRPC to this muddle of SEWRPC's creation.

Furthermore, the City of Waukesha decided that Oak Creek - - despite the higher cost - - was the probable water seller, as Oak Creek said it was fine with sending diverted water wherever the City of Waukesha wanted to pipe it.

Then the Waukesha Town Board chairwoman who had been swept into office in the 2010 recall election as a vocal opponent of the SEWRPC map was voted out this April.

Some Town residents were afraid the City water option down the road was a good one, and were flooding the City with annexation requests to guarantee themselves City service - - even though the Town's water supplies are reliable.

So Tuesday night the Town Board reversed itself and said it wanted the 2008 SEWRPC supply territory-drawn map to stand.

But the City, having set a deadline of a few weeks ago that had come and gone, is saying, 'sorry, too late.'

Well - - we'll see about that, as keeping the SEWRPC map as drawn helps justify a larger requested diversion, and water sales mean revenues to the City of Waukesha utility bottom line.

The dispute over the water service territory map is one of the reasons why the Wisconsin DNR has not yet finished its environmental and technical reviews - - let alone scheduled hearings to which it has committed - - on the City's diversion application.

Which the City filed with the DNR in the spring of 2010 - - a year-and-a-half after it got the mapping piece for SEWRPC.

Time has been a wastin'.


Anonymous said...

As late as Nov 2012, Waukesha Water Utility Manager Dan Duchniak has stated that June 2013 was the final "Drop Dead" date to have an answer on the diversion request from the other states so construction could be completed on time. This date was after the built in construction buffer period was used up.

Seeing as this is not even out of our own DNR yet, it seems highly implausible that Waukesha will have an answer from the other states this year, much less next month.

I would imagine the other states will carefully examine this application for at least 6-12 months before making any decisions. Especially a decision they could end up regretting.

The drop dead date is in 1 month, so what is "Plan B" Oh, wait! having a Plan B is not conducive to the application which states "no other alternatives"

What is going to be the next plan of action for Waukesha? Shallow Wells, the river? This would be a good story for the Freeman or an eager JS reporter.

Anonymous said...

omg, You're a funny guy. You seriously need swearing lessons. You can't have "a FUBAR", you make it sound like something covered in chocolate with a caramel filling and peanuts. This is not the first time you've messed up a swear either. Please practice. You'll have to do it on your own. I can't drive over there and do a reverse Pygmalion thing for you. Just go into a closet and start dropping F-bombs, start slow and gradually increase volume and emphasis. Then after you feel comfortable with that, start "stringing". That's (as most people know but you, apparently not) when you creatively combine (string) multiple Swears, Epithets, and Intolerant Derogatories. Be sure to avoid any type of grammatical structure or communicative goal. You should sound ridiculous and like you have brain cells blowing out your ears. You'll feel better, and your posts will have a grittier edge to them.

James Rowen said...

This is a respectful blog. I usually do not post comments that contain swearing, which is better suited to verbal, not written communication.

I use FUBAR as a shorthand noun and it conveys the message.

Anonymous said...

James, sorry but a point needs to be corrected in your observations. Waukesha is not under a 2018 court order to have a different water supply.

The court order requires Waukesha to supply water from all sources at the level of acceptable radium by the appropriate government agency.

Waukesha currently has multiple wells in the deep aquifer. Some have radium filters and some do not. Water is blended from a combination of deep and shallow wells to reduce the radium to the acceptable level. Waukesha exceeds that level very infrequently due to high peak usage days or a problem with one of the shallow or no radium wells which requires higher pumping capacity from the unfiltered deep wells.
Of note worthiness to the application is that Waukesha can install radium filters on all the deep wells and the 2018 court order would be satisfied. Of course, Waukesha could not apply for Great Lakes water for the reason of a contaminated water supply.
But, as you have rightly suggested, the application is not about need; it's all about development in the Town of Waukesha, Pewaukee, Genesee, and Wales.
Watch how fast the City opens it's arms to, as James Wigderson shamelessly puts it in today's Waukesha Freeman, welcome the prodigal son.

James Rowen said...

Yes, point well taken and I will edit my copy to reflect that. Thanks.