Environmental and conservation groups have sent the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources detailed questions and suggestions in response to the agency's call for guidance as it reviews Waukesha's precedent-setting and controversial application under the Great Lakes Compact for a diversion of water from Lake Michigan.
It's a thoughtful, scientific and forward-looking response, which I reprinted in its entirety, Monday.
Additionally, the City of Milwaukee also weighed in. The DNR will sift through all these comments. It's part of the way the agency is going about setting in motion a full study, called an Environmental Impact Statement, and will take months to write before the public again will be asked to comment.
You can follow the DNR's processes, and access a trove of records, at a web page it has created for the Waukesha proposal, here.
But here is the amazing thing: One of the groups, and a local one at that - - the Waukesha Environmental Action League, or WEAL - - has been making formal submissions on these matters, often covering the same territory, since February, 2006 - - 66 months ago!
What is there about the City of Waukesha water planning process that is so insular, so resistant to input and so impervious to change that the same local advocates would be raising some of the same issues, over and over again after five-and-a-half years?
For the record - - in April, 2010, I posted an item about a round of public comments on the Waukesha water plan, (more, here), and among the statements from WEAL 16 months earlier are their concerns, including how much time had already elapsed in this Kabuki drama:
In November 2008, the City of Waukesha and Waukesha Water Utility (WWU) officials called upon WEAL and other [Compact Implementation Coalition] CIC member organizations to help them develop an application (and application process) that would be precedent-setting in its excellence, thoroughness and transparency--and use best available science and practices to support its case that Waukesha needs another water source.
The CIC response was seven pages of thoughtful, thorough questions, and expertise provided courtesy of attorneys, biologists, health providers, scientists, and activists, representing experts and average citizens of the SE Wisconsin and the state... When responses to the CIC questions were finally received in June 2009, many answers were incomplete, vague or confusing, evaded the intent of the question or were not directed to the question asked...
In many respects, our concerns and comments have changed little since WEAL first formulated a series of questions for the City of Waukesha Common Council in February of 2006. The Great Lakes Compact counts on states to honor public input as decisions are being about whether diversions like the one Waukesha wants are desirable or necessary - - and as we speak, there are indications that Waukesha may not need all the water it wants, and would need less if the Town of Waukesha decides it does not want to be roped into the bargain; it would be hard to imagine Wisconsin officials being able to make the case to the other seven Great Lakes states (each has a veto) that between 2006 and today, public input has been sought and truly respected.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:52 AM