regional water authority required
Green Bay News Chronicle
One of the most-repeated comments during the endless
regional water talks was, "We don't want to see two
pipelines going to the lake." Well, unless some of
our leaders come to their senses, that's exactly what's
going to happen, and everyone involved should be ashamed.
The best way to handle the area's water problem is through
a true regional authority - perhaps a reconstituted Green
Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District or a similar body not
beholden to any local government. That's what we were
hoping would come out of the talks. It didn't.
Water isn't political nor should it be. It is basic to
life, and that means its supply is one of the most important
things a government can provide.
Green Bay made the right move in the 1950s by building
a pipeline to Lake Michigan at a time when many said there
was no need for such an expensive, outlandish project
with so much water right under our feet, just waiting
to be tapped.
And when Green Bay did build its pipeline, all that groundwater
was freed up for De Pere and the towns around Green Bay
that eventually grew into villages.
But it turned out that water wasn't endless nor necessarily
safe. A few years ago, the federal government said a lot
of it is contaminated, and communities had to find another
You know the story since - off-and-on talks with Green
Bay, which alternately seemed to welcome a deal and then
stalled to avoid one. As it turned out, the suburbs split
over the issue - Ashwaubenon and Scott piggybacking on
a new Green Bay pipe; six others deciding last week to
buy from Manitowoc, which, facing a fading economy, is
understandably looking to sell this ready resource and
make substantial bucks.
It needn't be that way; we don't have to give our dollars
and control of our water's delivery to a city 40 miles
away when we could - and should - be our own supplier.
Whether they want it that way or not, Green Bay and the
suburbs are intertwined. Ashwaubenon is now Green Bay's
downtown, and Green Bay is the school provider for Allouez.
More to the point, the suburbs that weren't ready for
Lake Michigan water in 1955 are now.
What is needed is a basic change in thinking. It is time
to put parochialism and politics aside and work on the
true "regional solution" that was given so much
lip service but little else during the talks.
Green Bay should take the first step, and that is to
step aside. It should agree to participate in a metro
water system which operates independently from the city
Yes, there'll be howls from those who say the city should
not be forced to give up what it has paid for since the
1950s. Well, the city has reaped the benefits of that
investment and continues to do so. It has been able to
serve an ever-growing population and hold onto water-dependent
industries and high-paying jobs.
The city literally could have dried up were it not for
its ingenious pipe to the lake. Some will call this sharing
of resources a subsidy to the suburbs. But no one says
oour existing MSD is a subsidy. In fact, few think about
the MSD at all, which is the way a utility should be run.
In short, Green Bay must recognize the realities of today's
urban complexities, where boundary lines are ignored and
people live in one community, shop in a second, bank in
a third, get mail from a fourth and are employed in a
And the suburbs must realize that they have been blessed
for the past half-century with ground water at low costs.
That ride is over and they, too, will have to pay their
There should be three goals, all of which could be obtained
quickly because so much preparatory work has been already
1. Every community should have an equal say in how water
is administered, a la an MSD.
2. There should be equal rates for all consumer classes
so that residential, commercial and industrial users are
given to orderly, rational growth rather than the lure
of cheaper water in a nearby community.
3. Our water supply should be built on the backbone of
the Green Bay infrastructure.
It is time for another investment similar to the brave
one made 50 years ago, a decision that was also buffeted
by controversy and passionate convictions.
Once again we ask, "Who will be the courageous person
to make the first substantive move?"