Mayor optimistic on lake water
By Darryl Enriquez
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published January 31, 2008
Waukesha - Waukesha has a "fair chance" of getting the Lake Michigan water it seeks to solve its water problems, Mayor Larry Nelson said Thursday after meeting in Madison with legislators who are key to passing the state version of the Great Lakes Water Compact.
"If the bill is fair to Waukesha's effort to apply for diversion, then we'll support it," Nelson said. "It was generally positive. What they're telling us, it sounded good."
The state Department of Natural Resources has told Waukesha that it cannot apply for a permit to divert Lake Michigan water until after a state compact is approved that regulates diversions, promotes water conservation and controls water use within the Lake Michigan or the Lake Superior drainage basins.
The DNR's role
Compact legislation is expected to be introduced next week, and supporters are pushing for approval of the 140-page document before the close of the winter session in mid-March.
The DNR in late December fashioned a concept paper of details that should be included in the legislation, and the paper provided a "favorable interpretation" of Waukesha's needs, including language for a water diversion, Nelson said.
Nelson and Waukesha Water Utility Manager Dan Duchniak met with state officials who may become involved with promoting the compact through the Assembly and Senate, including Sens. Robert Jauch (D-Popular), Mark Miller (D-Monona) and John Lehman (D-Racine) and Reps. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) and Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford).
Until Nelson and city staff actually see the draft version and analyze it, the mayor said, he is reserving his full support of the compact.
Neither the Common Council nor the Water Utility Commission have given formal approval to applying for a diversion, but city officials have heavily explored the possibility of replacing Waukesha's ailing well water with fresh drinking water from Lake Michigan. The city's water is out of compliance with environmental standards for radium content.
Ratifying the compact
In 2005, governors from eight Great Lakes states approved a compact among themselves to protect the Great Lakes and prevent their water from being shipped to faraway states.
Each of the states has to ratify a version of the compact, and Wisconsin has run into difficulties because of the competing interests of businesses and environmentalists.
One concern is proposed compact language that would freeze the ability of communities that get lake water to expand municipal boundaries.
Waukesha is within a county that straddles the Great Lakes drainage basin, which should make it eligible to divert lake water provided it's returned to the lake, according to the compact approved by the governors, Nelson said.
But Waukesha cannot support draft legislation that prevents border expansion and thus prevents annexations, he said.