Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Stalled Waukesha water plan review hitting fifth anniversary

Wednesday, April 8th, is the five-year anniversary of the Waukesha Common Council's adoption of the Waukesha Water Utility's application for a precedent-setting diversion of Lake Michigan water out of the Great Lakes Basin.

But rein in your optimism if you think the application's implementation after all that time is just around the corner.

Though the city is facing a June, 2018 court-approved deadline to provide customers with a cleaner water supply, delays and missed deadlines - - accompanied by inaccurate progress estimates - - have pushed that projected compliance date to the summer of 2020, and there is no "plan B," according to a City of Waukesha document which The Journal Sentinel prompted and cited:

Waukesha will be unable to comply with a court-ordered deadline of June 2018 to provide radium-safe water to its customers and will ask for an extension of at least two additional years, city officials concede in a memo prepared in response to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel inquiry.
Back to the history.

The application was forwarded in the spring of 2010 by Waukesha officials to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, (an agency dedicated website, here), for the beginning of its detailed review, but the application and documentation have needed so many revisions that even Scott Walker's laissez-faire DNR has yet to finish its review.

If, and more likely, when the DNR says the application is up to snuff, it becomes the agency and the State of Wisconsin's job to sell it across the Great Lakes region and navigate hurdles that will include:

* Public hearings and comment periods likely to prompt more revisions:

* Reviews in the other seven Great Lakes states; unanimous approval of an application for a diversion of water outside of the Great Lakes basin under a two-nation legal Compact is required before a diversion can begin.

* Convincing those other states that Waukesha's intention to send water beyond its current boundaries to undeveloped areas, and to nearby municipalities with no known water shortages or diversion applications of their own - - what I have called the application's weakest link - - can be allowed under the Compact agreement, principally a water conservation and management document.

* Consultation that agreement on an advisory basis with two Canadian provinces and First Nation tribes there because the US and Canada have combined management responsibilities over all five Great Lakes.

Remember that a legally-simpler application for a diversion of an amount of water smaller than what Waukesha is seeking ran into harsh, advisory criticism several years ago from several of the other states, and from environmental organizations with institutional credibility and expertise which raised substantive concerns.

Wisconsin on Waukesha's behalf should expect no less.

Here is some of that history.

Litigation is a possibility, either in Wisconsin, or elsewhere. Litigation could potentially add years to a final diversion decision and also add risk to the viability of the Compact agreement, which, for now, guarantees that water cannot be moved out of the Great Lakes basin to thirsty jurisdictions beyond a county whose borders, like Waukesha's, touches the basin boundary.

So keep that all in mind, with this reminder, and some highlights:

June 9, 2010: 
State officials on Tuesday returned Waukesha’s application to buy Lake Michigan water, saying the city has not exhausted its studies of alternative water sources.
April 8, 2010: 
The Waukesha Common Council placed the city's search for a radium-free water supply into the hands of Wisconsin and the other seven Great Lakes states on Thursday when it agreed to ask those states for permission to buy Lake Michigan water.
January 29, 2010:
Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak said the DNR has agreed to work with the city's proposed timetable to move the application through the approval process by the end of the year....

If the city completes the impact study by June, Duchniak and Nelson said they are optimistic of gaining Wisconsin's permission for a diversion by July.
May 21, 2009: 
...Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson confirmed that Waukesha will forward a diversion application by the end of this year...
April 26, 2008: 
...in its two confidential applications for Lake Michigan made to Gov. Jim Doyle in 2006, Waukesha sought 24 million gallons daily, suggesting that it expects its population to increase along with its total water needs.


Anonymous said...

That's amazing. A "confidential" November 2014 document between a City Administrator, who has since retired, the new City Attorney, and the principles, utility manager Dan Duchniak, and hired gun attorney, Don Gallo to the Waukesha Common Council.

Who is going to face the judge first when the DNR presents this letter of contempt for the court order to be radium compliant by June1st 2018?

I don't think I've ever seen a letter more damming and impossible to argue by the stated arguments...no plan "B" to comply with the court order??? Really??? You have every intention of violating it???

You might as well stand up and flip off the judge.

And why is Waukesha Mayor's name, attorney Shawn Reilly, absent from the document? Getting Lake Michigan water was his primary platform. Was he not given this document?

It would seem that 3 attorneys in unison are planning to violate a court order. Can't wait for the outcome on this one.

Anonymous said...

From that letter:
"Groundwater solutions are not sustainable for
the long term.."

What scientific evidence supports this?

We've all seen the graphs showing the deep aquifer level rising over the last decade.

Anonymous said...

"At the time the radium deadline was agreed to, none of the parties knew how long an application
for Great Lakes water would take."