Don’t let Milwaukee extort Waukesha just for a cup of water
Waukesha should look elsewhere for water if strings are attached to Milwaukee deal
I don’t believe the rumor that Mayor Larry Nelson and Dan Duchniak of Waukesha’s water utility had their eyes glued to the television as NASA’s probe hit the moon searching for water. Although, some might wonder if that is a cheaper option than those being considered to bring a fresh supply of water to Waukesha.
Waukesha needs to find a new source of water. The current deep wells into the aquifer will not be able to supply Waukesha’s needs. The quality of the water, especially with the radium levels, and the quantity of water within the aquifer, force us to look for water elsewhere. None of the options are cheap.
We can get water from new sandstone wells to the west. The cost of developing such wells is $176 million. Developing another set of shallow wells would cost $145 million. Aside from being costly, these options would also have the biggest impacts on the environment.
Pursuing Lake Michigan water is the “cheapest” option at $116 million in total costs. The return of water to the Great Lakes, required under the Great Lakes compact, would range between $27.5 million and $75 million.
These are shocking numbers for a community our size, and not to be considered lightly. The common council was assured that no tax dollars would be used in the project. Instead, the city would borrow the money for the pipeline construction on behalf of the utility and the costs would be paid back with higher rates for water.
Suddenly Dom Perignon doesn’t look that expensive.
Waukesha is asking three of our neighbors to the east if they are willing to sell water to us: Milwaukee, Oak Creek and Racine.
Milwaukee is the preferred choice. Jokes about their Deep Tunnel issues aside, Milwaukee’s water treatment facilities are top shelf, and their water also has the potential to be the cheapest.
Unfortunately, Milwaukee is already on record as saying that any community purchasing water from them must agree with them on a whole host of issues from transportation to housing.
Enter former Milwaukee Alderman Michael D’Amato. Jim Rowen at the Web site The Political Environment reports D’Amato has been hired by Martin Schreiber & Associates to lobby Milwaukee to sell water to Waukesha. Rowen hopes D’Amato will be able to explain to us in Waukesha what we need to do to get in Milwaukee’s good graces.
Clearly the preference of Waukesha would be for D’Amato to explain to his former colleagues that Waukesha will not allow itself to be pushed around on subsidiary issues, and that selling water to Waukesha would be a boon to cashstrapped Milwaukee.
In the movie “Citizen Kane,” Kane’s friend Leland asks the business manager Bernstein about the staff of the Chronicle coming to work for Kane’s newspaper, the Inquirer.
Leland: These men who were with the Chronicle. Weren’t they just as devoted to the Chronicle politics as they are now to our policies?
Bernstein: Sure, they’re just like anybody else. They got work to do, they do it! Only they happen to be the best men in the business!
Leland: Do we stand for the same things the Chronicle stands for, Bernstein?
Bernstein: Certainly not. Listen, Mr. Kane, he’ll have them changed to his kind of newspapermen in a week!
Leland: There’s always a chance, of course, that they’ll change Mr. Kane, without his knowing it.
The danger for Waukesha, of course, is that D’Amato will have more influence on Mayor Nelson than D’Amato will have on the aldermen in Milwaukee.
If that happens and it appears that Milwaukee is more interested in using water to extort all sorts of unrelated concessions that would not be in Waukesha’s best interests, then Waukesha must look at the alternatives. They may look more costly, but they won’t cost nearly as much as what Milwaukee would have in mind for Waukesha.
We must be willing to tell Milwaukee that we will go to the moon for water rather than allow our city to be run from Milwaukee’s City Hall.
Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Oct 22, 2009; Section:Opinion; Page Number:10A
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)