Friday, September 2, 2016

US, Canadian officials want Waukesha's water diversion revisited

A word or two about a call from scores of US and Canadian officials across the Great Lakes region for a fresh review of the recently-approved and still-controversial decision by a regional body under a 2008 Great Lakes water management agreement to approve a diversion of Lake Michigan water to the City of Waukesha.
Lansing — A group of mayors is requesting a formal hearing with the organization of Great Lakes governors that approved in June a Wisconsin community’s polarizing bid to draw water from Lake Michigan. 
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative filed the hearing request this week. Its director, David Ulrich, said the organization may take legal action if the request is not granted, though it has not yet made that decision.
As with so many facets of the diversion application's drafting - - and redrafting and approval earlier this year - - the outcome of this new appeal is not immediately clear, but let's remember two things as this precedent-setting process continues to unfold:

*  These officials represent millions of constituents, and as an organization, have credibility, standing and access to the kind of money that could be raised for a serious challenge, if that is the goal.

*  This opposition is neither new or unexpected, as the officials made their feelings known about the diversion application and the review process by the eight Great Lakes states earlier this year; I noted what they said at the time:

The Cities Initiative, a group of 122 local government leaders from the United States and Canada representing over 17 million people, is opposed to the water diversion because it does not comply with the Compact in several ways... 
All of these add up to the bad precedent an approval would set when the Compact created a very strictly limited exception for cities and counties on the borders of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin. 
In fact, the officials have been raising these objections for years, as I'd written in 2013:
There has been an exchange of letters between Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Daniel Duchniak and Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada Mayor Keith Hobbs.
The subject: Waukesha's draft application (reviewers at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have yet to get Waukesha's final, final, final draft, but that is another issue for another day) for a diversion of Lake Michigan water under the terms of a 2008 US-Canada Great Lakes water management Compact...
Thunder Bay's Hobbs, who is also the chair of a US-Canadian regional Mayor's group, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, is raising questions about Waukesha's application and specifically about Waukesha's intention to send water beyond its city limits.
Canadians have been raising these questions about Waukesha's application, as I noted six months ago:
So concerns expressed publicly by Canadian Ambassador to the United States Gary Doer about Waukesha's languishing application (Waukesha's Common Council approved it three years ago, though efforts to gain a diversion have floated around since 2006) should be taken seriously as the Wisconsin DNR continues to review the application...
During a visit to Milwaukee last week, Canadian ambassador Gary Doer said Canada generally opposes transferring water from one watershed to another, fearing it would hurt water quality, “and today's project may make sense, but 100 of them won't.”
While some of the officials' concerns about the reach of the diversion were resolved - - Waukesha is not supposed to send water to neighboring towns, and other Great Lakes states can play a role ensuring that Scott Walker's notoriously-lax Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in fact holds Waukesha to all of the diversion's conditions - - it's clear that local officials throughout the region, including in Racine, still have concerns about the diverted water's return flow route via the Root River, through Racine's harbor and back into Lake Michigan.

Again, this is not a new concern, as I noted in 2012:

Return-Flow Trouble May Be Root Of Waukesha Water Plan
So: stay tuned: Racine and other local officials are questioning the process, and the outcome and want to be heard. 

Which means Waukesha's diversion approval may not yet be a done deal.


Where's the ethics? said...

It's still puzzling how the reduced service area was accepted by Waukesha which translated to rededucting the total mgd permitted yet the EIS technical review by the DNR was not required to have a do over by the Regional Body. Unsustainability of Waukesha's current supply was never supported by scientific study by the WDNR. This is going to be a major setback for Waukesha.

Betsey said...

Now we have at the heart of this disastrous plan is a series of "findings" by the Great Lakes Council and Regional Body that aren't actually factual, and conclusions by the City Waukesha, WiDNR and GLC and Body that aren't supported by facts wither.

Bill McClenahan said...

To "Where's the ethics?:" You may want to actually read the approval by the Great Lakes Governors: "Environmental review conducted by the Originating Party [Wisconsin] considered a demand production of 8.5 MGD ADD for modeling purposes . . .
environmental projection analysis at 8.5 MGD ADD versus 8.2 MGD ADD is
within the margin of error for the model, and would not change the expectation of
significant adverse impacts to wetlands or lakes. . . These modeled impacts indicate that the evaluated sources within the MRB are unreliable and not sustainable without adverse environmental impacts."

Where's the ethics? said...

The Declaration of Findings by The WDNR are very likely to get a very through examination and review. Apparently there is contrary information that has been reported by the utility manager.

See the the May 10th post here.

Feel free to respond.

BTW, is Waukesha still paying you for legal services for this unbudgeted legal challenge? The utility has already spend nearly double the authorized 2012 rate increase. This won't bode well for the current proposed rate increase.