Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Court decision reminds us of importance of Waukesha’s Lake Michigan water application

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A unanimous decision by the state Supreme Court reminds us of the importance of the city of Waukesha’s application to divert Lake Michigan water and then return the water to the lake. The environmentalist group Clean Wisconsin says of the ruling in a press release,

A unanimous Wisconsin Supreme Court decision released this morning upholds the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ authority to protect all waters in the state, including groundwater.

At stake in Lake Beulah v. DNR was whether the DNR had authority to consider the impact pumping groundwater has on lakes, rivers and streams. In a 7-0 decision released this morning, the Court found that the DNR has both the authority and the duty to consider the environmental impact of pumping large quantities of groundwater.

“We conclude that… the DNR has the authority and general duty to consider whether a proposed high capacity well may harm waters of the state,” reads the decision written by Justice Patrick Crooks. “We further hold that to comply with this general duty, the DNR must consider the environmental impact of a proposed high capacity well when presented with sufficient concrete, scientific evidence of potential harm to waters of the state.”

Why is that important to Waukesha? As Clean Wisconsin points out,

“High capacity wells pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of water every day. If improperly located or managed, these wells can draw down groundwater levels, causing water levels to fall in nearby streams or lakes.”

This is precisely one of the dangers spelled-out in the city of Waukesha’s Great Lakes water application. If the city is forced to dig more shallow wells to the west to meet the city’s needs, then the potential is there to harm other surface water features in the surrounding area.

Not only could there be an environmental impact, there could be an impact on the water tables for the surrounding communities. This is the concern of the town of Waukesha and the legal fight over the Lathers Property, and that’s in regards to a test well that would only be used as a backup if the city of Waukesha is successful in pursuing Lake Michigan water.

If the city is unsuccessful in its application, then there is every real reason to believe that every new well that is needed will put the city in legal conflict with its neighbors and potentially the Department of Natural Resources. And as today’s court ruling makes clear, those would be fights that the city of Waukesha could easily lose.

While not having a sustainable source of water would satisfy the Jim Rowens of the world who despise Waukesha and believe that its success could only come at the expense of Milwaukee, the rest of us have an obligation to support the best solution for the longterm growth and prosperity of our city.

The city’s application for Great Lakes water is not only the most economical solution, it’ the most environmentally friendly solution, and it’s the only viable solution. Time for the environmentalists in Waukesha and the residents of the town of Waukesha to recognize that their longterm interests are served by the city’s application for Great Lakes water, too.

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