Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Blockbuster disclosure: More WI Great Lakes water disregard revealed

Regional US Governors and Canadian provincial leaders better rein in outlier Wisconsin's grabs of diverted Great Lakes water.

If they don't give Wisconsin a benching and review of the tapes, the integrity of a shared, slow-to-recharge world-class fresh water supply which counts on transparent agreements for protection will drain away, too.

And Wisconsin's already-cloudy record on diversions and disclosures just got murkier.

There has been a stunning disclosure by Great Lakes water expert author Peter Annin; the Wisconsin DNR during the Doyle years administratively gave Pleasant Prairie permission to boost its development-friendly Lake Michigan diversion water - - a plan which already been approved relatively quietly during the Thompson years.

Some initial reactions on my part, along with history:

*  That the increase in diversion authority for Pleasant Prairie sat for years undisclosed represents a colossal, collective failure by state and local officials, watchdog groups and journalists - - and I accept my responsibility. Shame on me.

*  Had the full Pleasant Prairie story been fully and forthrightly disclosed, I think the Great Lakes Governors would have taken a closer look at the Lake Michigan diversions they subsequently approved for New Berlin and Waukesha, and which is still under challenge by citizens for Foxconn in Mount Pleasant, because Wisconsin's history as a renegade regional partner would have informed and framed those discussions.

* I've gathered some information about Wisconsin's decades-long Great Lakes outlier status on water, diversions and policy, here, where I had specifically noted diversion history and documents which seem very relevant now:

*  In 1999, the Wisconsin DNR - - on its own - - opened the diversion spigot from the City of Milwaukee - - an in-basin community - - to Menomonee Falls - - an out-of-basin community in Waukesha County - - and, again, no other state challenged the move.
*  In 1986, Wisconsin GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson unilaterally approved a diversion of Lake Michigan water to Pleasant Prairie - - a community in Kenosha County close to, but outside of, the Great Lakes basin. The law in place at the time which governed diversions of Great Lakes water said all eight Great States governors would have to approve such diversions; Thompson received only five approvals and looked past three responses which never came, deciding without any firm rejections he had all the approvals he needed. 
No other state challenged him, however...
Democratic Ohio Governor Richard Celeste, then chairman at the time of the Great Lakes Council of Governors - - the governing board for diversion approvals - - received Thompson's letter that said, in part:
"I am writing to ask you to initiate the prior notice and consultation process as provided under the Great Lakes Charter for an interbasin diversion from Lake Michigan," Thompson wrote Celeste,"...to portions of the Town of Pleasant Prairie, Kenosha County...."
Thompson had earlier sought the "approval" of the other Governors, as Wisconsin's governor reminded Celeste with this language. "As you may recall, on September 2, 1987, I sent a letter to you requesting your approval of this same interbasin diversion...," but Thompson tells Celeste that it was withdrawn due to "uncertainties regarding the volume of the diversion needed...."
About six weeks later, Celeste forwarded Thompson's request to each of the other governors, and noted "Pursuant to Section 1109 of P.L. 99-662 [the controlling federal law, WRDA] this proposal requires the consent of the eight Great Lakes Governors." (Emphasis added.)
Regardless,  Thompson made his move, Pleasant Prairie got its water, and now we find that the diversion allotment limit has been greatly increased by the DBR without public review. File under 'slippery slope.'

*  The late Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager had warned in an under-covered opinion that Wisconsin officials had a cavalier attitude towards statutes and agreements which she said applied to all diversions, without legalistic parsings,of Great Lakes water.
Lake Michigan in winter 
Here is her opinion, and please note that I had addressed that topic in 2007, in this post also reposted in 2015:
The Wisconsin DNR wants to be a law unto itself
Reposted from 12/10/07 - - and relevant again as the WI DNR considers blessing a diversion of Great Lakes water for Waukesha under a Compact that is the successor to the multi-state agreement in place in 2007. 
Make sure you read then-WI AG Peg Lautenschlager's 2007 opinion for a look into the DNR mindset and culture, and remember, as the DNR finishes its review of the Waukesha application, that the agency never wrote administrative rules governing diversion requests as called for in the 2008 state law that implemented the successor compact.---------------------------------------
What is the public to do if a major state regulatory agency arrogates power, and media do not address the situation?
That's the question of the day to be dissected - - at length here at The Political Environment - - because that's the point we have reached with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, its interest in moving water out of Lake Michigan on its self-defined terms, and worse - - while major media watchdogs are not raising the alarm.


Where's the ethics? said...

The DNR is in the Governor's cabinet. If contributors tell him what they desire, it sure seems like it happens. Pay for play. Waukesha needed Lake Michigan water for growth and couldn't afford the cost without the growth and increased water sales. Ah, the conundrum the Compact Council created by redrawing the service area. Waukesha is a dead city that is now land locked.

Allen said...

Somers also has plans to send water west of i-94 and has a signed agreement with City of Kenosha to do just that. The supplying to Tn of Paris will further exacerbate the issue.

James Rowen said...

@Allen Bishop. Yes. Here is the extensive agreement. https://www.kenosha.org/images/news/AG207ComprehensiveAgreementDraft072817.pdf