The effects of the torrential storms of July 2010, which poured more than nine inches of rain in three days, are still being felt in neighborhoods around the city. Residents are still dealing with damage to their homes and properties from aging, leaking sanitary sewers that fill with rain and stopped flowing, which allowed wastewater to back up into the basements of many households.
Thus far, the city has spent more than $1 million to repair and replace municipal sanitary sewer mains so public sanitary sewers do not leak and allow storm water to enter following a major rainfall. However, privately owned sanitary laterals that connect houses to the street sewers still need to be addressed.
Representatives from environmental and conservation groups from six other Great Lakes states recently toured Waukesha to get a better understanding of Waukesha's need to for Great Lakes water. Waukesha needs the approval of the eight Great Lakes states to divert Lake Michigan water across the sub-concontinental divide, a practice that has tradionally been prohibited by a Great Lakes protection compact. Waukesha is the first community outside the Great Lakes drainage basin to seek such an exception. The out-of-state groups want to make sure that, if the deal were to be approved, Waukesha would follow the rules of the compact.
On October 18th, Milwaukee Riverkeeper Executive Director Karen Schapiro spoke with WUWM Environmental Reporter Susan Bence about the Clean Water Act's 40th Anniversary. This piece of monumental environmental legislation, passed with strong bi-partisan support, has done more to restore our waterways than any other law - before or since. Yet, there remains more work to be done today!
Over 170 people joined us at Discovery World on October 10 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act. If you didn't make the event, you still have time to see our exhibit, The Clean Water Act: Restoring Milwaukee's Rivers. The exhibit will be open in the Discovery World Promenade until November 25th. We hope you'll take a look and learn more about the history of our rivers and the legislation that makes so much of our work possible! Discovery World info and directions
* Note: there is no charge to see the exhibit!
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.