See through the politics of Waukesha’s waste water diversion plan

    The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors convincingly overrode on Thursday County Executive Scott Walker’s veto of a board resolution opposing Waukesha’s plan to discharge, on average, 10.9 million gallons of effluent into Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa.

    Given the original 13-3 board vote to approve the resolution, it’s not surprising – least of all to the county executive – that the board would choose to affirm what it had done rather side with Walker.

    In fact, the vote to override escalated to 17-3 against Walker – who was siding with the Lake Michigan diversion and return flow plan that Waukesha sent for review a week ago to the Wisconsin DNR – without getting the Milwaukee County Board’s input.

    Walker had wagged the predictable finger of regional cooperation at the board in his veto message, but where were Waukesha’s briefings and meetings and partnering with the supervisors in the neighboring, wastewater-targeted county as the diversion plan was being written?

    I think the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors would have responded the same way to a proposal, say, from Wauwatosa, to discharge its effluent into the Fox River and let it flow through downtown Waukesha.

    Members of the Milwaukee County Board can read a map, so they know that the bodies of water into which Waukesha effluent would flow are in Milwaukee County, not in Waukesha County.

    And they know that the effluent is not proposed to be piped to the MMSD for transportation and treatment.
    Board members also know that both Underwood Creek, and the Menonomee River into which the creek empties have had flooding and pollution issues that continue to be addressed at great cost.

    It’s of little comfort to Milwaukee County supervisors that Waukesha is relying on a paid contractor, news releases and palliatives from politicians to assure Milwaukee County residents that Waukesha effluent won’t cause flooding or pollution.

    For Walker, this issue isn’t about clean water or dry basements. It’s about politics – and Walker got what he wanted: An appearance of policy engagement and news coverage he can use in his search for votes as a candidate for Governor in very-Republican Waukesha County.

    James Rowen is a writer, a former reporter and a former mayoral staffer in both Madison and Milwaukee. He is the author of The Political Environment blog.

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