Friday, September 08, 2006

Waukesha tries end run to Lake Michigan water

The City of Waukesha covets Lake Michigan water, but 20-year-old federal law and a US-Canada compact agreement both make it near impossible for Waukesha to pipe in the 20-24 million gallons of water daily it wants.

That's because Waukesha is outside the Great Lakes basin, and disposes of its wastewater in the Fox River, meaning a diversion of Lake Michigan water to Waukesha would end up as a net loss to Lake Michigan.

Because existing federal law and the US-Canada compact say that all eight Great Lakes states' governors have to approve diversions of water out of the Great Lakes basin, a diversion plan by Waukesha is probably dead on arrival.

Michigan's governor in June blocked a much smaller diversion plan filed by the City of New Berlin, and that included returning treated wastewater to the lake.

So while Waukesha searches for new water sources, and is finally pushing conservation after decades of over-pumping its existing wells, it has come up with a new strategy to get more water while it continues to annex property and push sprawl and job creation farther from Milwaukee's labor force and built economy:

The strategy: Claim that Waukesha isn't really outside the Great Lakes basin after all and thus is already grandfathered as a user of Lake Michigan water.

And can have the water it wants with only a simple permit filing with the Wisconsin DNR and without making an application for review and approval by the other governors under either the compact or federal law.

Jim Rowen uncovered the strategy in documents provided by the Waukesha Water Utility, and suggest that if Waukesha doesn't get its way, litigation could result.

You can read the records here .


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