Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Divining water for Waukesha

4

Okay, SEWRPC is re-affirming their support for Waukesha seeking to tap into Lake Michigan for their water needs.

Waukesha’s application for a Great Lakes water supply is consistent with the findings of the commission’s preliminary regional water supply plan, SEWRPC Executive Director Ken Yunker says in a letter to representatives of the Sustainable Water Supply Coalition.

An advisory committee, which included engineers, scientists, water utility managers and other water experts throughout the region, studied possible options for four years before selecting a Lake Michigan supply for Waukesha, according to Yunker. The advisory committee did not recommend continued use of deep or shallow wells, or a combination of wells drawing water from deep and shallow aquifers.

The commission letter was distributed to city officials Monday in an attempt to build support for restarting state review of Waukesha’s application, coalition executive director Brian Nemoir said.

“City officials need assurance that all possible options have been studied,” Nemoir said.

The commission letter came in response to a request by four coalition members for SEWRPC to confirm its water supply recommendation for Waukesha. The representatives are: Ed Olson, president of Waukesha Memorial Hospital; Joel Quadracci, chairman, president and CEO of Quad/Graphics; Suzanne Kelley, president of the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce; and Steve Baas, government relations director for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

The coalition also is working with the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce on an online petition drive asking the Waukesha Common Council to reaffirm its choice of Lake Michigan as the only reasonable option for the city. Petitions are to be presented to the Common Council during its meeting Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a state appeals court is ordering the DNR to review a well permit because the well might affect Lake Beulah.

A state appeals court has ordered the Department of Natural Resources to reconsider a 2005 permit the agency granted to East Troy for constructing a high capacity well that has been operating for nearly two years 1,400 feet from Lake Beulah in Walworth County.

Lake Beulah Management District attorney Dean Laing said the ruling provides traction for the district’s effort to shut down the well to prevent a drop in the lake’s water level.

The ruling’s impact will be felt statewide since this is the first court to hold that the DNR has general authority to review the environmental impacts of high capacity wells of less than 2 million gallons a day, Laing said.

The court is telling the DNR it can invoke its authority to protect the waters of the state, under the Wisconsin Constitution’s public trust doctrine, if it receives information about possible environmental damage, Laing said. This authority remains with the DNR even though separate state laws mandate environmental impact studies for high capacity wells of that size in specific circumstances, he said.

“The DNR’s mission must be to protect waters of the state from potential threats caused by unsustainable levels of groundwater being withdrawn by a well, whatever type of well that may be,” the Waukesha-based District II appeals court says in a June 16 ruling. The public trust doctrine says that the state holds title to navigable waters in trust for public purposes.

So much for the idea that Waukesha can just go dig some new shallow wells to the west. As it has been pointed out by me and others, the shallow wells will affect the local surface water features nearby. As this ruling reminds us, that simply will not be allowed to happen.

Be Sociable, Share!

Print this entry