Friday, July 19, 2013

About Water, Waukesha, And Racine; Tale Of Two Cities

It was more than five years ago that State Rep. Cory Mason, (D-Racine), noted Waukesha's talk about diverting Lake Michigan water, realized the water would have to be returned to the lake somehow, somewhere,  - - perhaps down the Root River right through Racine  - -  and offered a precise and memorable quote to the contrary.

"Racine's not Waukesha's toilet," said the legislator.

And for a few years, it looked like Mason didn't have much to worry about, as Racine appeared to be out of Waukesha's diversion plans and plumbing.

Which was a good thing, since the Root River already has a propensity to flood.

Waukesha finished up its formal diversion application in 2010 based on a projected water purchase from the City of Milwaukee and a flushing of treated wastewater back to the lake via Underwood Creek and the Menomonee River. (Piping its effluent directly to a Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District treatment system connection was too expensive, Waukesha said, preferring the cheaper, open-water routing.

But Waukesha's planning has changed: it's 2010 application has stalled, and the potential supply deal with Milwaukee fell through.

Now the City of Waukesha is said to be writing a new Lake Michigan diversion application based on a water purchase from a new partner, the City of Oak Creek, necessitating a more southerly return regime to Lake Michigan down the Root River guessed it...Racine.

It's hard to miss the profound political and socio-economic contrasts between the cities of Waukesha and Racine - - a true tale of two cities, where is going to keep getting the gold while the other seems headed for the shaft.

In fact, these two medium-sized Wisconsin, though just a few miles apart, and with roughly the same number of people - - US Census Bureau data shows Racine with 78,303 people and Waukesha with 70,920 - - they might as well be on different planets. (You can find those and other data at this US Census Bureau website.)

Notably, the economically-distressed City of Racine, with a higher percentage of poor and minority citizens, has a median household income of $39,059, while the more upscale City of Waukesha's median household income is almost exactly 50% higher, at $57,001 - - and about 10% above the statewide average.

The geography in the diversion scheme - - and Waukesha would not compensate Racine as the wastewater recipient and doesn't need Racine's permission for the arrangement  - - along with the cities' comparative data and Mason's descriptive imagery echo centuries of living arrangements that define those on the hill as more privileged than those living below:

Because, you know what in politics and real estate what flows downhill.


Anonymous said...

There's been a significant amount of road/other construction work going on in the area of Hwy 100 and Watertown Plank Rd in Wauwatosa (i.e., near the Underwood Creek). Is it possible that there's still a plan to divert Waukesha water via that route?

James Rowen said...

Possibly. I think the area you reference is part of the Zoo Interchange 'improvement.'

The location of the return route is dictated by legal requirements mandating that the actual spot of return into the lake be as close as possible to the point of origin/

So drawing from Oak Creek but returning through Tosa and Milwaukee probably will not comply, - - but discharging into the the Root River in Franklin, where Waukesha has an option to buy a site for a discharge outflow, to Racine would.

Anonymous said...

Waukesha should be required to return the flow in a pipe to the point of withdrawal - Oak Creek.

The irony with Waukesha is that they try so hard to make a case on how increasing flow in one waterway, the Root River, will have all these glowing environmental impacts on aquatic life and habitat. But them they say that stopping the discharge to the Fox River will have no impact.

What's one to believe?