Environmental activist and blogger Jim Rowen is urging people to attend one of several public meetings on future uses of Lake Michigan water being held this week.
People will be able to attend focus group meetings ...to help guide a very important, fast-moving study looking at a question whose relevance to our region and shared experience cannot be overstated: what are the effects on our hyper-segregated region of transferring Lake Michigan water to Waukesha and other communities outside of Milwaukee - - thus what are the economic opportunities that water can offer to residents and businesses across a region with Milwaukee at its core?
The focus group opportunity arose because local activists joined successfully with a relatively new entity, the Environmental Justice Task Force attached to the regional planning commission (SEWRPC) and forced the agency at the 11th hour to hold its narrowly-drawn water supply draft recommendations in abeyance (SEWRPC leaders had considered the study virtually completed, and had already sent it out for public meetings) until it researched whether there would be so-called "socio-economic" impacts in the region if Lake Michigan water were indeed piped to Waukesha and elsewhere.
The focus group meetings are scheduled as follows:
Monday 2/8 1:30pm Early Afternoon meeting (1:30pm)
Waukesha County Administration Building
515 W. Moreland Blvd Room AC 255
Wednesday 2/10 4:30 PM Early Evening Meeting (4:30 PM) NEW SITE/TIME
Washington Park Library on Sherman Blvd
2121 North Sherman Boulevard
Thursday 2/11 1:30 PM Early Afternoon meeting (1:30 pm) Parking passes provided by UWM
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
Union - Room 181
2200 E. Kenwood Blvd
Waukesha is applying to the eight Great Lakes states for a precedent-setting Lake Michigan diversion, and the Waukesha draft diversion application released about a week ago acknowledges that some of the water is ticketed to large-scale annexations and population growth projected to its south and west.
Overall, Waukesha County is projected to achieve far-fasater job expansion than Milwaukee County - - trends being made worse by the recession.
Had the Environmental Justice Task Force not forced SEWRPC to hire an independent socio-economic consultant - - even so late in its water supply study process (it could have added this component anytime since it began its study in 2005) - - the agency would have by now approved its draft, pro-diversion recommendations, and Waukesha would have been running with the SEWRPC pro-diversion report as Exhibit "A" to validate its draft diversion application: in fact, at the release of the draft application last week, during a Q&A session, I pointed out that the Waukesha draft application in fact erroneously in a bold-faced color box on p. 45 said SEWRPC had "recommended" the diversion plan.
The water supply study is currently in hiatus as it awaits the socio-economic report - - and those findings may force a rewrite or reinterpretation of the entire SEWRPC water supply study.
Waukesha officials agreed to amend its application documentation to accurately reflect that no final SEWRPC diversion recommendation has been made.
UWM's Center for Economic Development - - http://www4.uwm.edu/ced/ - - was chosen by SEWRPC to complete its socio-economic research in a mere 90 days, so there is a short time line to take advantage of a rare opportunity for direct public input into a SEWRPC study - - arguably the most important such study in a long time.
Having pushed hard for this SEWRPC procedural reform and new research initiative, it behooves us to attend, and bring friends, contacts and networks to these focus groups, and to urge that water transfers not be recommended lightly, and certainly be seen by all parties in their broadest possible context.
We need to emphasize that water is a both a resource held in trust for the entire public, and a key and growing form of wealth, and that adding it to already more relatively upscale suburban and exurban communities without related, regional and real improvements to transit, affordable housing, and job opportunities will exacerbate the economic and racial disparities that have made our region one of the most segregated and self-restrained in the country.
Participation in the focus group will include clarification of and a brief discussion on the recommendations set forth in the RWSP, and participation in a SWOT Analysis to identify any Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that the recommendations may have on populations within Southeastern Wisconsin.
# Strengths: attributes of the plan or recommendations that are helpful to achieving the objective.
#Weaknesses: attributes of the plan that are harmful to achieving the objective.
#Opportunities: external conditions that are helpful to achieving the objective.
#Threats: external conditions which could do damage to the objective.
Please contact Randy Crump at Prism or Catherine Madison at CED if you would like to participate in one of the focus groups or if you have any questions.
* Randy’s contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org or (414) 847-0990 ext. 104.
* Catherine’s contact information is email@example.com or (414) 229-6155.
More information regarding the Socio-Economic Impact Analysis for the Regional Water Supply Plan can be found on the CED Website at http://www4.uwm.edu/ced/sewrpc/index.cfm
More information regarding the recommendations set forth in the preliminary draft of the Regional Water Supply Plan can be found on the SEWRPC Website at http://www.sewrpc.org/watersupplystudy/pdfs/pr-052_chapter-09_preliminary_draft.pdf