Former DNR Administrator Joins Town of Waukesha as Consultant
Bruce Baker worked extensively on City of Waukesha’s Great Lakes water application before retirement in March.
The Town of Waukesha unanimously hired Bruce Baker, a retired Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources official, to provide consulting services to the town about water supply issues.
The town is contemplating if it wants to remain in the city of Waukesha’s future water supply service area that was prepared by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. It has also sued the city over groundwater issues.
The town’s contract with Baker extends from June 10, 2011, to June 9, 2012. Baker will be paid $150 an hour to provide the special services on water issues in the town, according to the contract.
Baker is ordered in the contract to not provide any work with the cities of Waukesha, Milwaukee, Oak Creek and Racine, Waukesha County and SEWRPC during the time he is working for the town and for 18 months afterward.
Baker retired in March 2011 after 40 years of experience with environment regulatory agencies. He was the administrator of the DNR’s water division at the time of his retirement. Baker also was active in reviewing the city’s Great Lakes application.
The city is under a June 2018 deadline to reduce radium levels in the water supply, which is being perused by a request to pipe Lake Michigan water past the Subcontinental Divide. The water would also be returned to the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes water supply has been identified following eight years of studies as the most cost effective and sustainable water supply.
Baker was the main contact for the city’s application and wrote a December letter that identified areas the city needed to improve its application. The city has since submitted the additional materials and clarifications.
Mayor Jeff Scrima confirmed Thursday afternoon that he had recommended Baker to the Town of Waukesha.
"My goal is to cooperate with the Town of Waukesha and treat our immediate neighbors as we ourselves would like to be treated (and) to also work together toward a water solution that would be in our mutual best interests," Scrima said.
Scrima has frequently pushed the Common Council to include the town in the city’s future water supply search. Scrima most recently requested that the town be included on the city’s future water supply negotiation team.
Despite areas in the Town of Genesee and City of Pewaukee also being in the city’s map for the future water service area, Scrima has not advocated for those communities to have a place on the water negotiation team that will meet with Milwaukee, Oak Creek and Racine officials.
The Common Council ultimately rejected Scrima’s request, which also kept him and all elected officials from the water negotiation team.
In the meantime, the Town of Waukesha is still suing the City of Waukesha as the city is looking to place five shallow wells on a former farm that is located in the town. The town officials fear the city’s wells – which would be used as backup supply if the city receives Great Lakes approvals or could be a regular source of groundwater – will adversely impact the town wells.
Scrima said Thursday afternoon that he did consider the lawsuit when giving the recommendation of Baker to the town.
"I don’t agree with the past history that has developed between the Town of Waukesha and the City of Waukesha," Scrima said. "I don’t believe we are going to get very far by suing each other and taking this through the court system.
"We can get a lot more accomplished if we communicate with each other and work together on the issue. It is completely up to the town who they want to use as a consultant on this matter. I respect their choice."
Scrima has frequently opposed the city's application because he fears obtaining water from Milwaukee. However, during the June 21 Common Council meeting that he understands and respects the Common Council's wishes to move the Great Lakes application forward.
“I support the application and the council’s decisions," Scrima said during that meeting.
However, Scrima clarified his statement Thursday with this e-mail: “Mayor Scrima wanted to clarify that he respects the democratic system of checks and balances and wants to cooperate with the council, however he personally believes that Waukesha’s application for a Great Lakes diversion is still not complete and that all other alternative water solutions have not fully been explored.”