Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

May 24, 2007

Wisconsin landowners getting help to quicken shore cleanup

Filed under: Great Lakes Issues,Great Lakes Threats,Wisconsin — nemo @ 11:46 am

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on efforts to help landowners clear the gunk from beaches. The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved emergency regulations that will allow Great Lakes landowners to use backhoes, front-end loaders and other equipment to scoop up organic material that piles up and slowly rots in the summer sun.

Until now, if landowners wanted to use heavy equipment, they had to spend $500 on a state permit and wait 30 days to allow the public to comment because waterways are publicly owned and managed.

Officials say a malodorous mix of plant life, invasive mussels and gull feces is getting so bad in some areas that they felt compelled to move quickly this year. Conditions are at their worst in July and August as temperatures rise.

In documents, the DNR described stretches of Lake Michigan where vegetation extended 30 feet off shore and was 2 to 3 feet deep.

The mats of vegetation may cause higher levels of E. coli and other bacteria that settle on beaches, presenting a threat to public safety …


May 9, 2007

Waukesha Wisconsin wants to tap aquifer

Filed under: Great Lakes Issues,Water Diversion,Wisconsin — nemo @ 1:06 pm

From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Facing a state Department of Natural Resources deadline to reduce radium levels in its drinking water, the Waukesha Water Utility with Mayor Larry Nelson’s support wants to acquire property [42 acres along the Vernon Marsh Wildlife Area] in the Town of Waukesha [WI] by using its powers of eminent domain.

Underneath the property is a shallow aquifer of clean water that replenishes the Vernon Marsh and provides private well service to an unknown number of homeowners near the massive wetlands.

The utility wants to withdraw up to 3 million gallons daily from that aquifer and mix it with existing city water to dilute radium concentrations that are usually twice the amount allowed under federal safe drinking water standards.

The city’s goal is to hook into a new source eventually, possibly from Lake Michigan, and relegate the Vernon Marsh wells to backup status, but that goal is years away.

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December 12, 2006

Wisconsin has a history of quiet water diversions

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has this to say about the Wisconsin DNR’s handling of water diversion requests in the past:

Indeed, Wisconsin has a history – albeit a quiet one – of unilaterally approving Lake Michigan diversions, provided the treated wastewater is sent back.

That is the case to the south of Milwaukee, where the City of Kenosha has been supplying water to communities beyond the basin’s dividing line for decades. It is a similar story in the Village of Menomonee Falls, where water has been flowing over the basin dividing line since 1999. The DNR never sought out-of-state approvals for these diversions, which total roughly 1.4 million gallons daily.

What good is the Great Lakes Charter if it will be ignored?

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December 8, 2006

Today is the Wisconsin state deadline on reducing levels of radium (New Berlin and Waukesha)

Filed under: Great Lakes News,Water Diversion,Wisconsin — nemo @ 5:09 pm

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on todays deadline:

More than two-thirds of the 42 water systems under state order to reduce potentially dangerous radium levels, including New Berlin and Waukesha, could violate today’s compliance deadline and face penalties in the coming months.

December 3, 2006

New Berlin and the Great Lakes

Filed under: Water Diversion,Wisconsin — nemo @ 7:31 pm

Dave Dempsey has responded to the Detroit Free Press editorial and asks:

Has the community evaluated all other alternatives, including state of the art water conservation?

It’s a good question but can’t be answered by New Berlin alone.  The issue of diversion must be a basin issue.  Ask the same question of Chicago which withdraws 2.1 billion gallons per day and pushes some of it as far as Naperville — more than twice as far as New Berlin. 

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November 27, 2006

Group urges Wisconsin DNR to follow rules on Great Lakes water request

Filed under: Great Lakes Compact,Water Diversion,Wisconsin — nemo @ 10:17 pm

mlive.com is reporting that an environmental group is urging the Wisconsin DNR to abibe by rules requiring approval from the eight U.S. state govenors and Canada before acting on New Berlin’s proposal to draw more than 1.8 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan.

The important point in this article is that Wisconsin may disregard the Compact and decide on its own to withdraw water:

A spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources contends the proposal doesn’t fall under the category of requests that require full consent, and that the DNR might handle the decision alone.

The Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes said on Monday it’s not up to the DNR to decide, noting that the federal Water Resources Development Act of 1986 requires any diversion of Great Lakes water to be approved by the Great Lakes governors.

“Some states are going down the slippery slope of coming up with their own definitions of what’s a diversion,” said Alliance spokeswoman Cheryl Mendoza. Mendoza said the federal act defines a diversion as any water diverted out of the lake.

But Bruce Baker, deputy administrator of the DNR’s water division, said a water transfer is only considered a diversion when the water is removed from the lake but not replaced.


November 22, 2006

Comments regarding New Berlin diversion application

Filed under: Great Lakes Issues,Water Diversion,Wisconsin — nemo @ 7:50 pm

The Capital Times reports on comments received from the other seven Great Lakes states and two Canadian Great Lakes provinces regarding the New Berlin water diversion application:

Federal regulations require New Berlin to upgrade the quality of its drinking water by Dec. 8; the DNR has given the city until the spring of 2007 to get into compliance with a permanent solution.

Proposals to divert water out of the Great Lakes basin must win the unanimous approval of all Great Lakes states, according to U.S. law and a Canada-U.S. compact. New Berlin’s diversion plan would supply water to that part of the fast-growing city that is beyond the Great Lakes basin’s subcontinental divide and would return it to Lake Michigan. The early reviews from those jurisdictions are arriving at the DNR, suggesting that the New Berlin application is not complete and comprehensive, according to documents released under the state open records law.


November 17, 2006

Lake Michigan water access could be near for Waukesha

OnMilwaukee.com carries this report on proposed amendment language to the Charter; language that would define how border areas to the basin could use water with the stipulation that it be returned to the lakes:

A decision on allowing Waukesha County to access Lake Michigan water could be just weeks away. But the special Legislative Council Committee on the Great Lakes Water Resource Compact this week deferred action on a proposal by Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak that would have allowed the community to access the water that so far has been denied.

Duchniak, a public member of the committee, proposed that the committee agree to create language in the proposed compact that states, “Tributary groundwater means the groundwater that would naturally flow to the Great Lakes in the absence of human activities that would influence that flow.”


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