Can Water Deal With Milwaukee be Revived?
A Milwaukee alderman is asking his Common Council to reconsider its action that prevents it from beginning a Lake Michigan water sales negotiation with Waukesha.
Looking to jump start negations for a Lake Michigan water sales agreement between Waukesha and Milwaukee, a Milwaukee alderman has introduced legislation that would partially change a previous decision that killed negotiations earlier this month.
Milwaukee Alderman Jim Bohl’s looking to have the Milwaukee Common Council begin negotiations that would include two separate agreements, one for Waukesha’s current water service area and one for the city’s future water service area. Waukesha’s future water service area is set by the Southeastern Regional Planning Commission and includes property in the towns of Waukesha, Delafield and Genesee and City of Pewaukee. The Milwaukee Common Council decided earlier this month it would negotiate only with Waukesha’s current water service area.
“To have separate negotiated deals allows the City of Waukesha to proceed forward with a contingency plan in hand,” Bohl said in a news release. “In this scenario Waukesha also gets to negotiate for Milwaukee water – the best and least expensive option for them.”
The Milwaukee Common Council meets Tuesday morning.
Waukesha is already in the middle of negotiations with Oak Creek and Racine for a potential Lake Michigan water deal. Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak said Monday that Waukesha would still like to negotiate with Milwaukee – as long as it is for the entire future water service area. Waukesha is anticipating a water sales agreement to be finalized between Waukesha and either Oak Creek or Racine by the end of summer.
“We appreciate his efforts,” said Duchniak about Bohl’s resolution. “As long as it allows us to negotiate for the entire service area, we would be encouraged by that action.”
The Waukesha Water Utility warned Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett last week that Milwaukee’s current stance on water negotiations would keep Milwaukee from pursuing a water deal with Waukesha.
Barrett has also requested an official ruling by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources about Waukesha’s future water service area.
“We have been informally told that the DNR will not approve a diversion application in which water supply is limited to the City of Waukesha’s current water service area and that a supplier must agree to provide service to a proposed future service area that has been delineated by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission,” Barrett wrote in a July 18 letter. “We are writing this letter in an attempt to reconcile this information with our interpretation of the Great Lakes Compact and Wisconsin’s implementing statutes.”
A letter from the DNR to Duchniak states that in order to receive Lake Michigan water, the diversion has to be approved for the water supply area under state statutes.
“The department is prohibited from limiting a water supply service area based on jurisdictional boundaries, except as necessary to prevent the waters of the Great Lakes basin from being transferred to a county that lies entirely outside the Great Lakes basin,” states the letter from the DNR.
The Waukesha Common Council agreed two years ago to apply for Great Lakes water as its primary option to reduce the radium levels. The city needs approvals first from the DNR and the Wisconsin governor. Then the application advances to all the Great Lakes states, which have to also approve the application because the City of Waukesha is located just outside the Great Lakes basin. A portion of Waukesha County lies within the basin.
The city's application to divert the water from Lake Michigan is currently pending with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Waukesha is looking to pipe water from Lake Michigan; it also plans to return the water to the Great Lakes.
The first of several water rate increases because of the project has already been implemented. The Public Service Commission approved a 27 percent rate increase last week as Waukesha looks to develop a new water source.
In addition to being under a June 2018 deadline to remove radium from the city’s water supplies, Waukesha has declining water quality and quantity in its eight deep wells and three shallow wells, which is why it is looking to purchase Lake Michigan water.