Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Waukesha-area border war could send Lake Michigan water to new Village

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources may release next month its long-awaited analysis  about its review of the City of Waukesha's application for a precedent-setting diversion of water from Lake Michigan.

Some basic information about the application and the review process, here.

Among the potential stumbling blocks is the City's intention to send water beyond its own boundaries to neighboring communities, including the Town of Waukesha; initially the Town did not ask to be included in the application, but has since changed its mind.

Whether all eight Great Lakes states will give the application the unanimous approval it needs for implementation and thus the approval to send some of the water to municipalities which had not directly applied for it is an open question and which would be addressed if the DNR sent the application after hearings and final changes out for the eight-states' regional review.

Note there is a 1 p.m. public hearing this afternoon in the Brookfield Town Hall about a long-simmering border dispute involving several municipalities that could affect the question of which municipalities should be able to access diverted water under the terms of a 2008 US/Canadian/multi-state Great Lakes water management Compact.

The City of Waukesha sits outside of the boundaries of the Great Lakes basin, and is the first municipality to apply for a diversion of water under tough rules limiting such transfers.

The discussion this afternoon in Brookfield is not directly about the water diversion, Instead, it will center on whether the Town can remake itself into a new municipality - - the Village of Brookfield - - but bear with me here.

In Wisconsin, villages have more power than towns over land use and development along and across their borders; if the town eventually becomes a village, some of the diverted water could be made available to that new village and to development in the area though neither the current Town of Brookfield or the proposed Village of Brookfield are in the diversion application.

This story explains the somewhat complex border matter to be explored at today's hearing which involves multiple inter-governmental development, growth and municipal identity issues:
Jay Walt, a town of Brookfield resident, in 2011 filed a petition to incorporate the town of Brookfield into a village using land outside its existing boundaries. Walt said becoming a village would preserve the town's identity and protect its territory from the threat of future annexations.
By including 288 acres of town of Waukesha land as part of the incorporation effort, the proposed village would be about 4.2 square miles, slightly larger than the four-mile minimum required for incorporation under state law. 
The town of Waukesha has 130 parcels included within the 288 acres. The total property in the town of Waukesha is worth about $60 million in assessed value.
The area the town of Brookfield is attempting to incorporate into a village includes homes and businesses in the town of Waukesha, including the Walmart Neighborhood Market and JD Byrider, along highways 59 and 164. 
The proposed incorporation area also includes town of Brookfield land where Marcus Corp. is developing The Corners, a mixed-use retail development anchored by a Von Maur department store between Bluemound Road and I-94, east of Barker Road.
Government resistance
The proposal has been opposed by the cities of Waukesha and Brookfield as well as the town of Waukesha.


Anonymous said...

It's my understanding the City of Waukesha has already ran municipal water service into some of the 288 acres. If that land were annexed by another community, the proposed Village of Brookfield, the application process would need to come to a screeching halt. More revisions and updates would be required to the accurately reflect the expanded service area.

The DNR should just sit on the application until this battle is over.

Bill McClenahan said...

Jim Rowen creates the impression that the creation of a village would somehow have water going to an area that is not included in Waukesha’s water supply service area (that was determined by regional planners and included in the application for Great Lakes water). That is untrue.

If a portion of the town that is in the water supply service area became part of a new village, that portion would continue to be eligible for utility service, despite having a new name. However, no other portion of the new village would be eligible. The service area would not change. No part of the current Town of Brookfield is in the service area.

Water supply service areas were created by Wisconsin’s Great Lakes Compact implementation law. The law’s requirement that they match wastewater services areas – which have existed for decades – is consistent with good planning and environmental principles. In fact, the law prohibits service area boundaries from being determined by municipal boundaries.

The requirement that water supply and wastewater service areas match is also consistent with the Compact’s requirement that a community like Waukesha must maximize the return of basin water and minimize the return of out-of-basin water.

James Rowen said...

Thanks to Waukesha's consultant for the update.

Anonymous said...


Why does the proposed Village need Lake Mchigan water? It can't be a contaminated water supply. It can't be a pending shortage.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the compact says "maximize" or "minimize" return flow with respect to a percentage of return flow to the basin.

I'm pretty sure it specifies the percentage of in basin water being returned. As many are pointing out, Waukesha is not proposing the compact requirement.

Anonymous said...

So this is about growth after all!

Anonymous said...

According to the Thirsday Waukesha Freeman, the Waukesha Water Utility manager, Mayor, and City Attorney explained at the hearing to the review board that this issue is going to screw up the application process.

Bill seems to trivialize the complexities with this first ever model application. Wrong Bill.

This application highlights exactly what will happen if the application is passed.

Throw Waukesha's long term building plan out the window. Every boardering entity to the Waukesha Water Utility will asked to be annexed for development and Waukesha will ask for the moon next application process after this one expires.

Bill McClenahan said...

This was irrelevant before and is even more irrelevant now. The incorporation petition was dismissed. Town of Brookfield will not become the Village of Brookfield.

Even if the Town had become a Village, nothing would change in regards to water service. If land was within the service area, it would be eligible for water service regardless. If it was not in the service area, it would not be eligible.

The fact that the Town might have changed to a Village would not mean that the entire Village would come into the service area – only the land within the service area would still be within the service area.

But it's now a moot point. Yet you still keep linking to this.