Thursday, November 9, 2017

Foxconn water diversion story needed more attention

[Updated from 9/15/17] Any intrepid reporter care to tresd into these waters at the contract signing Friday?
The site Foxconn has selected in Racine County's Village of Mount Pleasant will need a diversion of Lake Michigan water for its massive, water-dependent operations, and the planning is underway, as BizTimes reported a couple of weeks ago.

The story deserved more attention. I missed it, so shame on me.

Focusing on the need for diverted water before the Legislature sent the Foxconn bill to the Governor for his pro forma signature might have raised questions that easily could have slowed the Foxconn express to a crawl.

And it sure helps explain why the bill exempts the development from a routine and logical environmental impact statement review. Imagine the attention that review would have drawn had it concentrated attention and debate on such a big water issue and regulatory/legal obligation.

The diversion application under the rules of the governing multi-state Great Lakes Compact will only require approval by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and not all eight states belonging to the Compact - - as was the case with the City of Waukesha's far more complex diversion and wastewater return plan - - a so-called regional application review.

The level of review for the Foxconn development will be similar to what the City of New Berlin was required to undergo when it arranged a diversion from the City of Milwaukee several years ago.

And I see no way that the Department of Natural Resources - -  with its history of obeisance to what Walker prefers, such as wetlands filling or eased pollution prevention by the "chamber of commerce mentality" agency he envisioned - - would stand in the way of a project which Walker has made his #1 job-creating and budget-defining priority.

More of that DNR history is here, including material I wrote about 10 years ago, and Tommy Thompson's role in diverting water to another Racine County community - - Pleasant Prairie - - is discussed, here.

Neither the New Berlin or the probable Foxconn/Racine County application require Lake Michigan water to be moved to a community like Waukesha that is entirely outside of the boundary of the Great Lakes basin, hence the lower-level but still significant filing which will bring water for Foxconn and surrounding, developable acreage.

Note, however, that despite its relatively easier level of review, the New Berlin application generated a lot of heat and had to be rewritten after withering technical criticism; Racine will hire the same consulting firm that New Berlin used, and which the regional planning commission, (SEWEPC), hired to oversee the preparation of its seminal report proposing Lake Michigan diversions in several communities, too, as Biz Times reports.

Racine is also planning to work with Waukesha-based Ruekert & Mielke Inc. for technical support related to the Foxconn development.
So this upcoming application appears to have built-in advantages, but still will have to demonstrate that diverted water can be supplied and returned to Lake Michigan according to a set of standards, with Mount Pleasant and the supplying community - - the City of Racine - - hitting performance benchmarks that will be made public.

More on this later, because nothing is easy or moves quickly when it comes to significant sprawl development, Great Lakes water and Wisconsin's role in diverting it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is Mount Pleasant a done deal for Foxconn? I hadn't heard that.