Friday, September 11, 2015

70+ Great Lakes legislators oppose Waukesha water diversion

[Updated] To a growing list of negative editorials in major US newspapers across the Great Lakes add a letter signed by more than 70 state legislators opposing a precedent-setting plan to divert Lake Michigan water beyond the boundaries of the Great Lakes basin.

Waukesha, WI, a city which lies beyond the Great Lakes basin - - but is part of a county which touches the basin boundary - - is applying for the water under a 2008 multi-state compact.

The legislators' letter, citing legal and environmental concerns, was addressed to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, (DNR), and released by Wisconsin State Rep. Cory Mason, (D-Racine), who has said more than once said he does not want his community to become Waukesha's toilet.

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State Rep. Cory Mason, (D-Racine)

The Waukesha diversion application, nearing the end of a DNR review, seeks through the compact a daily Lake Michigan withdrawal - - and beyond additionally to several neighboring communities bootstrapped into the application - - through the City of Oak Creek of up to 10.1 million gallons of water daily, and to a maximum of 16.7 million gallons, though Waukesha's average recent daily use is 6.6 million gallons.

About 15% of the acreage outside of Waukesha's current boundaries to which diverted water could be exported is undeveloped.

Waukesha's application also envisions a return flow of treated waste water into the Root River downstream from Waukesha in the City of Franklin - - rather than using the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District's system - - and back to Lake Michigan through Racine's harbor.

Waukesha currently discharges its treated waste water into the local Fox River, part of the Mississippi River watershed.

Strongly defended by Waukesha, its application recently raised objections at a DNR hearing in Racine.

A simpler withdrawal and return plan utilizing Great Lakes water supplied by City of Milwaukee and returned through Underwood Creek - - and eliminating the costs and distances attached to Oak Creek and Racine - - fell through when the DNR - - though it is also the diversion application's evaluator - - said the communities beyond Waukesha had to be included in the plan though they had not requested diverted water.

The use of diverted water beyond Waukesha's boundaries is one of the objections cited in the legislators letter and has long been noted as a potential roadblock that makes an intrinsically-controversial proposal even more problematic.

These issues and contradictions have long been on the table.

Years ago, Waukesha's relentless expansion through annexation had been documented, and noted, even though the city knew its existing water supply had quality problems, as you can see in these lines from a 2005 legal review:

Moreover, city planners concede that annexations of property bordering the city occur on a regular basis, as developers continue to buy up farmland and then petition the city for annexation. In the last five years alone, over 1,300 total acres have been annexed by the City of Waukesha, with over 4,413 total acres annexed in the past 15 years.[66] 
Unlike other cities whose expansion is limited by the existence of neighboring cities, there exists no immediate impediments to the City of Waukesha’s expansion.[67]  
Rather, the annexation process is simple and driven by land developers, who after buying up neighboring farmland,[68] initiate the process by petitioning the City Clerk for annexation. Following State Department of Administration review, and approval by the City Plan Commission, the city’s Common Council invariably accepts the petition for annexation.69   
In this fashion, unless the city undertakes containment measures, Waukesha’s outward sprawl will continue unabated, property by property, acre by acre, development by development. 
The DNR is finishing its review of the Waukesha application; all eight Great Lakes states governors must approve it before the diversion could begin.


Anonymous said...

I think Wisconsin has some corruption. I noticed this today, where political crimes could be brushed under the rug:

Anonymous said...

Interesting that nobody seems to getting the need for the expanded service area - redevelopment of large residential parcels to city sized 1/4 acre lots for rapid sprawl. All thatnks to a needed Lake Michigan supply.

Anonymous said...

I thought I recalled a story from WPT "Here and Now" many many years ago, a story done by Art Hackett, on the water issues --whoa! Just found it.

Thanks, James!

Anonymous said...

Good story on Riverbank infiltration.

Max B. said...

The Water Utility has called the subcontinental divide (the geographic feature that divides the Great Lakes water basin from that of the Mississippi River basin) "a line on a map." If that's the case, such man-made constructs as county borders and city borders are non-existent.

Anonymous said...

Some states need to start asking Waukesha questions when the DNR under Secretary Stepp's wink wink nod nod approval of the application.

What is your plan B? You stated you have a plan B when questions were asked in the submission of the original application.

Can you install HMO filters on all your wells? You already have them on some of your high radium wells, including you highest capacity well. Why install them on all your high radium wells?

If your primary source of water, the deep aquifer, has been rising for the last 15 years, why did you expand your service area instead of planning the water resources for just the city utility customers? After-all, the WDNR has placed Waukesha in a ground water management area and that appears to be working - until your future projections included areas without a demonstrated need for Lake Michigan water. And besides, why do you feel the need to force all your current base to pay-as-you-go construction costs for the infrastructure for a final build out area in 2050. You are a monopoly. That seems very heavy handed and very suspicious. Has your PSC reviewed this financial plan?

Perhaps Waukesha's finest think they are far smarter than all the other seven states lawyers and DNR's combined. That has to be it.