Wednesday, November 6, 2013

More About Pending Groundwater Giveaway; Also Waukesha's Diversion Plans

I think I'll give over this space to the River Alliance of Wisconsin and its succinct description of important water-related plans and meetings in Wisconsin beginning tomorrow:

*  The pending giveaway of public groundwater being engineered by the former environmentalist moderate GOP State Senate Neal Kedzie, (R-Elkhorn) - - an earlier posting on this blog, here.

*  The schedule for a set of informercial meetings (my term) that are not public hearings the City of Waukesha is planning in SE Wisconsin to explain its long-delayed and now $207-million Great Lakes water diversion proposal.

For the record, Waukesha had estimated the cost of the diversion-and-return-flow plan at $78 million just four years ago.

Take it away, River Alliance:

We Didn't Think the Bar Could Get Any Lower
In the last two years, our elected leaders have been busy rolling back protections to our cherished lakes and rivers, limiting the authority of the DNR and local government to protect lakes and rivers, and even limiting the opportunities for the citizens to challenge these decisions. Now they are giving away the groundwater, too.

In September, a bill - SB302 - was introduced "to expressly limit the authority of the DNR in regards to review and regulation of high-capacity wells". High-capacity wells pump more than 100,000 gallons of water per day from the ground. 

The bill's author, Sen. Neal Kedzie, said the measure was necessary to clarify the scope of the DNR's regulatory power in light of a recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that affirmed the constitutional authority and duty of the DNR "to consider whether a proposed high capacity well may harm waters of the state" (dubbed the Lake Beulah decision).

A hearing on SB302 was hastily convened less than a week later. Many turned out to comment at the Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing (chaired by the Sen. Kedzie), including landowners who took the day off work to drive to Madison and sit for hours and tell their story of how excessive pumping has literally dried up the lakes in their backyards.

Not only did the stories of peoples' misfortune fall on deaf ears, but this week Sen. Kedzie added an amendment to SB302 that would further restrict the DNR's authority to consider harm to surface waters. 

And the Senate Natural Resources Committee will meet Thursday, November 7th to vote on the bill and send it to the Senate for a full vote. 

This despite documented cases of harm to surface waters from excessive pumping. Even more callously, this bill would blow up efforts from within the Senator's own caucus (Sen. Rob Cowles and Rep. Scott Krug) to address the growing conflict around excessive groundwater pumping at a regional level.

Even to our jaded eyes, this is a new low.

The First Test of Great Lakes Compact
City of Waukesha submits diversion application and holds public meetings starting tomorrow

In 2008, the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement for shared management of the Great Lakes, was signed into law and subsequently ratified by every Great Lakes state, including Wisconsin.

One unanimous priority among all parties was a desire to strictly control diversions of water outside of the basin. The City of Waukesha, while only six miles from the Lake Michigan shoreline, falls outside the basin - a drop of rain that lands in the City ultimately winds up in the Mississippi River, not the Great Lakes. Facing public health issues with their current drinking water supply, Waukesha is the first community to apply for a water diversion under the compact and has officially submitted their application to the DNR.

River Alliance has been part of a coalition of environmental organizations that has advocated for passage of a strong compact and that has been closely watching the City of Waukesha's application process for the last three years. Attached is a press statement put out by the Compact Implementation Coalition today which highlights some of our concerns about the application to divert water out of Lake Michigan.
The City of Waukesha will be holding what it calls informational meetings starting Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. 
Dates and locations are:
  • Nov. 7, Carroll University Center for Graduate Studies auditorium, 2140 Davidson Road, Waukesha.
  • Nov. 13, Oak Creek Community Center, 8580 S. Howell Ave., Oak Creek.
  • Nov. 14, Racine Campus Conference Center, Great Lakes Room, Gateway Technical College, 1001 S. Main St., Racine.
  • Nov. 18, Zilber School of Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, rooms 109, 119 and 129, 1240 N. 10th St., Milwaukee

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