...in the Great Lakes environmental community over leasing the Milwaukee city water works to a private company for cash.
"Why would we spend one penny on appraising a system that could put us on a track that may be completely counter to what the public wants?" said Melissa Scanlan of Midwest Environmental Advocates.
Scanlan frets that such a deal would cripple the city's ability to make its own decisions about water management for the rest of the century - a century in which everyone agrees water is going to grow in value, both economically and politically.
"Committing the city to a 100-year lease seems absolutely ridiculous with all the unknowns out there," she said. "Take the uncertainties of climate change alone. What is the value of water going to be 20 years from now, 50 years from now? How can you plan out 100 years, and to try to put a value on that at this point? It seems just like an impossible proposition."
Noah Hall, a Wayne State University law professor who helped draft the language in the compact, sees no inherent problem with turning a public water system over to private operators.
"It is not an environmental issue one way or the other, but really an issue of ensuring good management and accountability, which can be accomplished through either public or private operational management," he said.
Hall said he actually sees a potential advantage to privatizing the system, because a for-profit company may be more likely to implement rate structures that will force customers to limit how much water they use.
"The lakes don't care whether it's public or private employees who are treating the wastewater and running the water systems," he said. "From the lakes' perspective, what matters are the results."