Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Waukesha diversion, with conditions, moved closer to approval, but...

[Updated at 3:22 p.m.] An advisory body this morning representing eight Great Lakes US states and two Canadian provinces moved Waukesha's precedent-setting application for a diversion of water to the region's final decision-makers - - the eight US governors only - - with a number of conditions I outlined in a posting yesterday.

Basically, the advisory body cut the physical area to which Waukesha could ship the water, reduced the  volume of water which can be diverted, requires Waukesha to do some water quality monitoring and testing along its waste water return route in the Root River through Franklin and Racine, and would further limit new groundwater pumping in the Lake Michigan watershed that could negate the net benefit to the watershed which Waukesha and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have said would result when Waukesha substitutes lake water for its current deep-well, aquifer-depleting water pumping.

The recommendation, through an amendment by Minnesota. also grants "any Party" - - presumably a Compact member - - the right to intervene in subsequent, diversion-related actions. In early posts, I had used the word "citizens," thus likely overstating who had this access.
The advisory body's website is here.

Groups opposing the diversion had this to say:

“We are pleased that the Regional Body agreed with us that Waukesha’s proposal as submitted does not meet the requirements of the Great Lakes Compact and is recommending modifications to its proposal. But we are disappointed that the Regional Body did not completely reject Waukesha’s flawed diversion proposal. We need to carefully examine the conditions that the Regional Body has recommended to determine if they uphold the letter and spirit of the Great Lakes Compact. When complete, we will forward our assessment to the jurisdictions and the Regional Compact Council, which is scheduled to meet on June 21 or 22.” 
Curiously, Minnesota's representative, citing the need for more study, abstained from voting on the recommendations. It is unclear how much time Minnesota needs to get its remaining questions answered, or precisely what those questions are, or whether the abstention is a signal that Minnesota's Governor will cast an eventual "no" vote at the Governors' final decision-making meeting in a few weeks.

Minnesotans overwhelmingly opposed the diversion application - - as did people across the entire Great Lakes region. In the thousands, by a ration of 99:1 against.

The application's review and approval vote are governed under a 2008 US/Canadian Compact incorporated into US law.

Under that law, any "no" vote from a US Great Lakes Governor would kill the application - - but would not rule out a revised application, additional reviewes, etc.

It is also not clear how the Great Lakes governors will guarantee their several diversion conditions will be met or enforced - - a real question given that this is the first diversion application to go through the process - - and given the DNR's passive approach these days to enforcement, the Walker administration's proven disdain for regulation in the public interest, and the current Attorney General's newly-disclosed disinterest in water protections long guaranteed in Wisconsin law and included in the Wisconsin Constitution.

Remember that Walker is beholden to developers, and cheering Realtors before whom he signed a wetlands-filling bill - - and has been since the early hours of his administration in 2011- - in fact, here's a fresh wetland filling close to Waukesha's city borders enabled by Walker's anti-environmental agenda - - and remember, too, that Waukesha County routinely gives him his biggest trove of votes.

And I find it hard to believe that the boundary limitations of the reach of the proposed diversion's conditions will limit Waukesha's growth to the city's current borders.

The agreement does put a geographical limit on Waukesha's distribution of diverted water, but not necessarily to the future expansion of its city borders - - borders which were expanded freely over the years as developers brought annexations to the city even though everyone knew that the city had water supply issues that someday had to be addressed.

I would not be surprised if growth-happy, annexation-adoring Waukesha does not find a way to keep growing and serving developers with the blessing of the Walker administration (including the Legislature, the DNR, and/or the Public Service Commission) - - or through a regional water authority - - remember that 2007 development? - - a water supplying concept endorsed a few years ago by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Commission - -  a leading supporter of Lake Michigan diversions, plural - - and the agency that created without a public hearing and barely a whisper of initial public disclosure the expanded service territory map that essentially was thrown out by the diversion application's reviewers.

Could Waukesha still access nearby shallow well water through annexations or other means to separately serve newly acquired territory with non-Lake Michigan diverted water - - thus capturing more neighboring property's service charges, tax revenues and development potential.

In other words, the diversion application as recommended for final approval - - as I read it - - limits where Waukesha can send Great Lakes water, but does not create a hard-and-fast city border and growth boundary which can still be expanded creatively.

Side question - - how did the neighboring and smaller Town of Waukesha like being treated by the City of Waukesha and the regional planning commission for the let six years like a well-heeled-consultant-hiring, election-roiled-in-or-out-of-the-application ping pong ball?

Anyway - - the Governors have yet to cast their votes. Minnesota's path is unclear. Litigation over the advisory body's recommendations, or the states' final voting, is also unpredictable.

So stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

One thing for certain if this thing passes, I'm headed to a neighboring community that is on the deep aquifer, treats the deep aquifer water supply to be in full compliance with all state and federal laws, and has a vastly greater water supply thanks to the morons who will stay and build pipelines to Lake Michigan.

Thank you Mayor Shawn Reilly.

Anonymous said...

Waukesha officials would be foolish to sign onto this diversion if it really means setting final boarders for growth... They will look back in 20 years and wonder what these guys were thinking.

Anonymous said...

What is Waukesha's plan for sending its treated wastewater back to Lake Michigan via the Root River when the river is flooding? The Root River in Franklin, south of Oakwood, floods so often that the authorities have installed permanent gates to shut off the road between 60th and 76th Streets when the road is covered with water. The water has sometimes been three feet above the level of the roadbed. I know this because several years ago a midwinter thaw dropped several inches of rain on the area. The temperature dropped and then the flooded area froze. When the water finally receded, the ice clung to the bark of all the trees and formed discs of ice two inches thick around the trunks of the trees--one of the stranger things I've ever seen. So, if the Root River is flooded in Franklin, what is Waukesha going to do with its wastewater? Will they store it? Where? Will they just add it to the flood?

Anonymous said...

Build higher roads & bridges... it's coming your way regardless.