Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Town of Waukesha sends clear message about water

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Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Jul 15, 2010; Section: Opinion; Page: 10A

Town of Waukesha sends clear message about water

Scrima forcing city to choose him over long-term water stability

The town of Waukesha sent a clear message Tuesday evening with the results of the recall election: don’t think digging shallow wells will go unopposed.

The high turnout and the overwhelming victories by Joe Banske and Angie Van Scyoc should not have taken anybody by surprise. Banske and Van Scyoc tapped into the sentiment that the incumbents Tallinger and Smart were not protecting the interests of the town, specifically the town’s water supply.

The recall was triggered when the Town Board approved the survey map that would allow the city of Waukesha to dig five shallow wells as a backup to whatever water supply the city chooses for the future. Town residents feared that the city’s new wells would affect the wells in the town.

The victory by the recall supporters comes a day after the town decided to take legal action to stop the city of Waukesha from drilling the five wells in question.

Between the impending legal action and the landslide victories by the recall organizers, the town of Waukesha is reminding the city that the surrounding communities will not be happy if the city decides to dig shallow wells instead of pursuing Lake Michigan water.

This all comes in the same week as a report appeared in The Freeman, “Waukesha’s application for lake water documents differing water supply options,” explaining how all the other options for Waukesha’s long-term water needs were considered and rejected. Ironically, it appeared in the same newspaper that published an op-ed piece by Scrima still claiming there are alternatives to Lake Michigan water.

Each of the mayor’s ideas: quarries, more wells, the Fox River, were all examined and rejected by experts in the field.

It’s also the same week when we learned the mayor’s rhetoric often echoes the rhetoric of Milwaukee-based environmentalists who see Waukesha as a product of urban sprawl rather than a legitimate city with a history almost as old as Milwaukee’s. These environmental groups, ignoring the science of the issue, see a diversion to Waukesha as an open invitation to every community to start sucking water out of Lake Michigan.

Never mind that when the Great Lakes Compact was being debated everyone involved knew that Waukesha would be seeking Lake Michigan water, and that the compact would require 100 percent return of the water to the lake. These groups, many of whom have no love for the city of Waukesha at all, are determined to stop the diversion of Lake Michigan water to Waukesha.

I find it ironic that a mayor who campaigned on being independent of Milwaukee would find himself so beholden to Milwaukee interest groups for their support of his position on Lake Michigan water.

I realize now that the mayor may have been completely ignorant of how the city functions before he took office, or even how much research went into the water question. I realize that he actually believes there is some sort of active conspiracy to force Lake Michigan water upon the residents of Waukesha. I even realize that, thanks to a Sound Off that appeared in Tuesday’s newspaper, some of Scrima’s supporters fear some sort of invasion by “minorities” if a pipeline is built to Milwaukee for water. (To think the fear was only fluoride in water in the old days. Now it’s minorities.)

But we’re at the point where there is no other solution to Waukesha’s water problems other than Lake Michigan water and it’s time for the mayor to catch up to that fact.

Milwaukee Magazine’s Bruce Murphy (yes, I know, he’s from Milwaukee) wrote recently that he thinks Waukesha’s Great Lakes water application is dead. I’m not ready to accept that yet.

I am willing to say that at this point as long as Scrima is the mayor, and as long as he continues to have fantasies of some other source of water for the city of Waukesha, the application probably will not succeed.

The mayor is rapidly forcing a choice between him as mayor and the city securing a long-term stable source of water. It’s time the aldermen started educating their constituents on that stark choice.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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