Is the Lake Michigan Application Politically Driven?
Organizations analyzing Waukesha’s Great Lakes application have a common theme; Waukesha’s application is not based on the city’s need for water. It’s about growth in communities outside the city borders.
I agree with that analysis. In addition, City of Waukesha residents, the highest taxed in the county, are expected to solely pay the $200 million+ for a construction project to assure everyone outside the city borders have plenty of deep aquifer water for their own development needs.
Beyond construction costs, city residents would buy water from another community and pay twice to operate and maintain another utility in addition to our own infrastructure and business operations. The cost of Lake Michigan water will cause financial hardships on city residents, including the poor, elderly, and handicapped and also drop everyone’s property value.
Why consider living in Waukesha when you can have greater financial value elsewhere?
Those who would argue that it would cost more to develop local sources of water, you need to step back and ask; Exactly when is this additional water going to be needed for the city residents or exactly when will the deep aquifers be unsustainable?
That answer may be that a significant amount of Waukesha’s water originates in Jefferson County to the deep confined aquifer under Waukesha.
That shines a light on why developed, and undeveloped, communities of our region want city residents to get off the unconfined deep aquifer. Unfortunately, everyone else and our own elected officials expect the city residents to roll over and pick-up the tab or continue the fight when the application is rejected.
The 2018 court ordered deadline to be radium compliant prompted the pursuit of Lake Michigan water as one way of meeting the court order. The “drop dead date” to begin construction of pipelines to Lake Michigan is long gone and the utility is now facing court sanctions at ratepayers expense. To pursue litigation is a fool’s approach.
According to public records obtained by blogger James Rowen in his opinion piece at Wisopinion:
shows that our utility through it’s lawyers in March and May of 2006 asked Governor Doyle to negotiate a 24 million gallon per day diversion to Waukesha without a return flow because of the claimed harm to the Fox River system. The lawyers wanted to keep the records from the public. The request was rationalized by utility manager Dan Duchniak stating, “The last thing we want is litigation”. Governor Doyle did not respond and no negotiations took place. Waukesha’s approach has certainly caused distrust outside our city borders.
The utility can install radium filters on all deep aquifer wells, not just some, to meet the court order at a fraction of the cost of developing a completely new source of water for the city. Filtering out radium however, would end any timetable to pursue Lake Michigan water but safe drinking water would not be an issue.
Waukesha’s application would then stand alone on the current and immediate need of another source for the city. Without that pressing need, the utility can develop strategies for strategic planning over decades, not all at once, to meet our city requirements and include areas outside the city by regional management of water resources. But, that will mean limiting growth based on available water resources. That’s exactly what SEWRPC should have done from the beginning.
Creating an expanded service area of the utility in recent years is troublesome to the compliance of the Great lakes Compact. The Town of Waukesha chairman says inclusion in the service area doesn’t mean Town residents have to connect to the city service, but inclusion is “an insurance policy”. No immediate need for Lake Michigan water there. The other communities would would need to demonstrate a need too such as a contaminated supply or a water shortage, but that hasn’t happened even four years later than when the application for Lake Michigan water was filed.
Our city image is badly damaged. The Water Utility and Lake Michigan water supporters pushed so hard to tell the region about how contaminated our water supply is with a carcinogen (radium) that it’s impacting decisions on whether or not to purchase real estate in the city. This concern was recently express to me by a co-worker from another community.
We’ve already spent over $3 million feeding oats to a dead horse. We’re not going to get Lake Michigan water and we (the city of Waukesha) don’t have an immediate need to develop a completely new source of water. It’s time to install the radium filters on the deep aquifer wells and get on with regional planning as “Plan B”, not jumping all in to needlessly develop a completely new source locally. After all, we have the biggest straw in the milkshake; therefore, we control the issue of water use in the region. That control can be used to the benefit, rather than the demise, of the City of Waukesha.
It’s election season. I want to hear from all city candidates as to why they believe city residents should carry the financial burden for a Lake Michigan diversion exception at the benefit of everyone outside our city borders.