Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Council President re-states the city’s official position

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Waukesha’s Official Position Is to Support the Application for Great Lakes Water

By Alderman Paul Ybarra

Waukesha Common Council President

The Waukesha Common Council and the Water Utility Commission have both concluded that Lake Michigan is the city’s only reasonable long-term water supply option.  Years of study by experts inside and outside of the city have made that clear.

The attempts by Mayor Jeff Scrima to discredit that work with unfounded conspiracy theories are reckless and concerning to anyone who bases their opinions on research and science.

No issue is more important to our families and businesses than ensuring that we have a reliable, affordable and sustainable water supply for today and for generations to come.

The Waukesha Common Council voted, 14-1, to submit an application for Great Lakes water to the Department of Natural Resources.  The analysis in the application concludes that Great Lakes water is the only reasonable water supply option for the city.  Every alternative threatens area water resources – not just groundwater, but the lakes, streams and wetlands (including the Vernon Marsh) that are fed by groundwater.  Every alternative is less protective of public health.  Every alternative is more expensive.  This is also true of every combination of alternatives.

Unfortunately, the Mayor is attempting to singlehandedly take this option of lake water off the table for every family and business in Waukesha.  Waukesha will have no chance for this long term solution to Waukesha’s problems if the Mayor is successful in his unfounded efforts to derail the city’s application. 

Mayor Scrima’s recent letter to the Department of Natural Resources calling for a halt in its review of our application does not represent the official position of the City of Waukesha.  Neither do his many Friday afternoon releases to the media.  He has gone beyond disagreement with the City’s position on water supply issues to actively and irresponsibly attempting to undermine our application process and the official policy of the City as set by its governing body, the elected members of the Common Council.

The Mayor’s letter to the DNR implies that not all of the water supply options have been analyzed.  This is simply not accurate.  The reality is, nearly a decade of study has led to broad consensus among scientists, engineers and public officials.  Lacking any facts to refute the consensus, the Mayor has chosen to portray it as a conspiracy.  Consistent with many conspiracy theories, the Mayor’s tales are long on motive and short on evidence.

A regional advisory committee of 32 experts met 21 times to discuss water supply issues, supplemented by planning staff and consulting engineers.  Waukesha’s Water Utility Commission and the Common Council had 41 open, public meetings where the water supply application was discussed.  Three open houses were held.  At least six different independent engineering firms have analyzed the issue for the water utility.  The result is approximately 2,000 pages of analysis in the application that clearly explains the City’s position.

It was expected, however, that the DNR would have additional questions after we submitted an analysis as complex as this.  The City is prepared to respond to those questions.  There is no need to delay the DNR review.

Oddly, the Mayor is attempting to unilaterally kill the Great Lakes option while proposing options that have been shown to be less protective of public health, damaging to the environment, less reliable and at least $57 million, or 35%, more expensive.   His actions are irresponsible.

The Mayor is now calling for yet another independent study of Waukesha water options.  That is exactly what the DNR is ready to do as part of its evaluation process.

The Mayor often talks about the water issue as if it is just about meeting our June 2018 court-ordered deadline for full compliance with the radium standard.  It is actually about our current ground water supply being unreliable for the long term.  Yes, we may have water below us, but it is becoming increasing contaminated and more and more expensive to pump and to treat.  There is NOT an unlimited supply, which is why the Legislature has designated our area as a Groundwater Management Area.  Continued or increased groundwater use will cause groundwater declines that have negative environmental impacts on lakes, streams and wetlands.  It’s as if the Mayor is blind to the Town of Waukesha taking steps for legal action in opposition to additional groundwater wells.  Additional regulatory restrictions and lawsuits to limit groundwater use are inevitable.  It is obvious to most of us that, for environmental, legal, and financial reasons, we cannot responsibly rely on groundwater for our long term water supply.

Rather than wasting millions of dollars to make unreliable groundwater supplies radium-compliant for the short term, the Common Council has decided that it makes more sense to switch to a reliable, sustainable long term supply – Great Lakes water – before the 2018 deadline.

The Mayor said in a recent article that he is taking a stand.  He has taken a stand with a position that is not supported by facts or science, but rather based on fear and conspiracy theories.

It’s time for the Mayor to review the record and to stop opposing the City’s official position.  It’s time for him to stop wasting our time, money, and resources with claims that are unsupported by facts or science.  It’s time for him to look to the true long-term interests of our city’s families and businesses, instead of the interests of his secret group of advisors.

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