In this the 63rd chapter of this blog's nearly nine-year occasional series about sprawl, we note that the City of Waukesha is hedging its Lake Michigan water diversion supply bet by moving closer to a 'Plan B' - - annexation of the 13-acre Lathers farm site in the Town of Waukesha it bought a while ago so that a series of wells, if needed, could be drilled into a shallow aquifer.Sources say the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is about to rate as complete Waukesha's Lake Michigan diversion application and send it with the DNR's stamp of approval to the other Great Lakes states.
All eight US Great Lakes states Governors would have to give their unanimous approval before the application's implementation, and two Canadian provinces and First Nation tribes there also have the right to consult and advise.
The Freeman, Waukesha's daily newspaper, says in its e-edition today that "City officials have no reason to believe Waukesha's application for Lake Michigan will be delayed…but officials are now moving to annex the [Lathers] site…."
Three things to remember about all this:
* As with so many of the issues wrapped up in this diversion question, solutions do not come without potential consequences. A respected Town of Waukesha consultant has said that tapping into it could harm the Vernon Marsh, a wildlife area connected to the Fox River.
In January, 2009, the Waukesha Common Council, meeting as a committee of the whole, heard presentations on the application process - - including one by Powerpoint by Great Lakes journalist and book author Peter Annin.
I remember Annin telling Waukesha to expect a "brutal" review process because Great Lakes diversions were controversial and problematic, with the city's being the first under the Great Lakes Compact to require an eight-state, unanimous review and approval.
I also noted and documented also years ago that a simpler, and less controversial diversion application from the City of New Berlin provoked redrafting after objections from other states and Ontario, so why should Waukesha expect different treatment:
...raising objections were the state of Illinois, and, in an advisory capacity, the Canadian province of Ontario, plus a long list of environmental and conservation organizations that raised significant questions of New Berlin and the DNR about the application's adequacy, accuracy, and completeness.Waukesha could make it easier on itself by either moving as a diversion alternative to the installations of available water treatment technologies to meet without delay a looming court-ordered compliance deadline, or remove from the application its intention to export diverted water to several neighboring communities which did not ask for diverted water in the first place.
The State of New York's criticisms were brutal: I summarized them this way in a Capital Times column last year, quoting from the New York document provided through Open Records from the DNR:
"New York officials said the application was without key studies, complete data, adequate water supply descriptions, enough system and geological maps and "descriptions of the situation and feasible options."
"New York," I wrote, "opined that there was "no evidence that the applicant is aware of or familiar with the full range of applicable state and national regulations, laws, agreements or treaties," and cited other deficiencies or possible inaccuracies.
"Additionally, New York observed that "the statement of no cumulative impacts is unsupported by any data in the document and does not address potential cumulative impacts to Lake Michigan water levels, shoreline, other users, water-dependent natural resources, etc.'"
Pretty tough stuff for a document the DNR labeled at the time complete and comprehensive.
Waukesha has said that state law defining water and sewerage service districts requires the export of diverted water beyond its traditional boundaries to the neighboring communities, but given the political clout which Waukesha could exercise in the GOP-dominated State Capitol, an amendment to or redraft of the law to simply Waukesha's water supply problems could probably get done pretty quickly.
(Editing note. Copying and coding difficulties may cause some type and font problems for readers. My apologies.)