This week, the City of Waukesha and Oak Creek signed a letter of intent whereby for a period of at least 40 years Oak Creek would supply Waukesha an average of 7 million gallons a day of Lake Michigan water starting within the next several years, rising to an average of 10.9 million gallons per day by mid-century. This letter of intent now becomes part of Waukesha’s application for a diversion of Great Lakes water, which is pending before the DNR, and must be approved by all the Great Lakes governors.
However, the state-wide Public Service Commission quickly ruled that Oak Creek would be precluded from taking on additional wholesale customers if it cannnot fully recover the costs of serving them, thus jeopardizing the water deal with Waukesha. The Oak Creek Common Council authorized the initial letter of intent, but Oak Creek's Water & Sewer Utility General Manager Steve Yttri does not plan on signing it after this development.
Dredging of the St. Clair River in Canada has lowered water levels by nearly two feet in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Now pressure is mounting on both American and Canadian governments to figure out how to restore water levels. Ninety mayors, representing 15 million people in the Great Lakes region, are dissatisfied with a study that says costly restoration projects to repair the damage caused by the dredging could take years and do more harm in the end.
The Wisconsin DNR is currently seeking comments on the proposed wastewater discharge permit (WPDES permit) for the We Energies Valley Power Plant, which discharges 122 million gallons of heated cooling water per day into the South Menomonee Canal of the Menomonee River. In addition, this plant withdraws up to 160 million gallons of water per day to cool the plant, killing an estimated million fish per year (not including eggs and larvae) in the process.
Valley’s WPDES permit is one of the oldest expired water permits in the country, last being issued in 1987, and expiring in 1992. For the last 20 years, Valley has been operating on their old permit requiring antiquated technology that is not in compliance with new laws, regulations, or science. Given the extremely long wait for this permit, we are surprised by its failure to incorporate new thermal and phosphorus regulations.
Outside Magazine asked its readers to vote for the cities in America that are most serious about water recreation and environmental stewardship. The results are in and our very own Milwaukee, Wisconsin was chosen as one of the best places to live in the country!
Here's what Outside Magazine had to say about "a city reinvented as the Silicon Valley of water":
“People underestimate Milwaukee,” says reader Nancy Welch. It’s a common theme among residents who voted for their hometown. So are the innovative ways the city has reinvented itself over the past decade, most of them involving water. The city is steadily transforming into what former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson hopes will be “the Silicon Valley of water.”
Last Friday (August 17, 2012), Milwaukee Riverkeeper appeared in Milwaukee County Circuit Court to object to an "abatement" plan for the long-neglected Estabrook Dam. In May, the court ruled in favor of Milwaukee Riverkeeper's motion for summary judgment and declared that the dam was a public nuisance. At the hearing on Friday, Executive Director Karen Schapiro objected to the plan submitted by the County, stating that it was deficient for a number of reasons, including the lack of a time-table for repair, as well as information on how repair and future operations would be funded.
Milwaukee Riverkeeper, together with the Cleaner Valley Coalition, a committed group of community, environmental, heath, civil rights, and faith organizations, received good news this past Friday (August 17). We Energies announced its plans to end burning of dirty coal at its Valley Power Plant, converting to natural gas by 2016.
On July 26th, Milwaukee Riverkeeper testified at a public meeting at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) regarding the proposed reissuance of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District's (MMSD) water discharge permit.
After reviewing the draft permit, we submitted additional written comments with the Alliance for the Great Lakes. We found that there were several areas of the draft permit that needed improvement, including:
Green Infrastructure requirements must be strengthened to ensure accountability.
The permit must prohibit sanitary sewer overflows - the worst kind of sewage pollution.
Combined sewer overflow provisions must be strengthened in several key sections.
The phosphorus discharge limit for South Shore must be reduced from 1.0 mg/L to 0.6 mg/L.
WDNR Secretary Cathy Stepp has weighed in on the proposed sale of Great Lakes water to Waukesha, saying that any water sale must supply not only the City of Waukesha, but also its entire proposed future water service area. The City of Milwaukee has approved negotiations for a water sale only to Waukesha’s existing water supply area, fearing that selling water to the larger service area would fuel suburban sprawl at the expense of Milwaukee.
The Great Lakes Compact states that applicants for a Great Lakes diversion need to demonstrate that they have “no feasible water supply alternative” and this bar has arguably not been met for Waukesha or even discussed for portions of the municipalities included in the larger service area.
The state Department of Natural Resources will require any municipality, including Milwaukee, selling Lake Michigan water to the City of Waukesha to supply its entire future water service area and not just the city, Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp said Thursday in a letter to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Willie Hines.
With one of the hottest summers on record and beach season in full swing, Milwaukee Riverkeeper has released an interactive SWIM Guide to make it easy for Milwaukee area residents to find a safe beach for swimming.
The app was developed by the innovative people at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and is now managed by Milwaukee Riverkeeper and other member groups of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a network of 200 water protection groups worldwide.
The app is being released in conjunction with Waterkeeper Alliance's "Swimmable" Action Day, where Waterkeepers across the globe will plunge into the waters of their lakes, rivers, and ocean coasts to celebrate the act of swimming and our right to clean, swimmable waters.
You would expect state permits for municipal sewage plants to limit the amount of pollutants discharged to rivers and lakes and to impose deadlines on upgrading sewers and treatment facilities.
But a draft state wastewater discharge permit for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District is the first in the U.S. to add this regulatory wrinkle: requiring rooftop plantings and installation of other "green infrastructure" - not sewer pipes or storage tunnels - to collect and absorb storm water.