DNR to Milwaukee: Negotiations Must Include Entire Water Service Area
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett tells Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Waukesha should still negotiate under Milwaukee's terms – terms that would exclude parts of Waukesha's future water service area.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will review Waukesha’s application to divert Lake Michigan water based on its water service area – not municipal jurisdictions – and it will require Waukesha’s water provider to supply water for the entire water service area.
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp clarified Thursday in a letter to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett the DNR’s position as Milwaukee has refused to negotiate with Waukesha’s entire future water service area. Instead, Milwaukee is only agreeing to negotiate a water purchase for the Waukesha’s current water service area.
“Given this clear statutory link between the diversion application and the water supply service area, the department will insist that the entity with which the city contracts for water must be willing to supply water to the entire service area,” Stepp said in the letter. “Specifically, the department cannot allow a diversion application to proceed with a water supplier that categorically refuses to serve jurisdictions within the service area.”
However, Waukesha’s water service area has not yet received final approvals from the DNR, the letter states. Additionally, the water service plan may be amended, the letter states.
Waukesha's future water service area was developed by the Southeastern Regional Planning Commission and includes portions of the City of Pewaukee and the towns of Genesse, Delafield and Waukesha.
“The department's interpretation is that the amendment process would be similar to the process for amending area-wide water quality management plans,” Stepp said in the letter. “Amendment requests would need to be approved by the department and could originate from regional planning commissions, designated area-wide water quality planning agencies, or from the governing bodies of cities, villages or towns whose public water supply is addressed by the plan. … The department's analysis would include a check for consistency with an approved area-wide water quality management plan-specifically including the designated sewer service area.”
The DNR’s response apparently did not satisfy Barrett, who told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that Waukesha should still negotiate based on the city’s current water service area. However, it is unlikely Milwaukee and Waukesha will compromise on negotiations. Waukesha is expecting to have potential water deals finalized by the end of summer with Oak Creek and Racine.
The Waukesha Water Utility first approached Milwaukee to negotiate a water sales agreement as it attempts to meet a June 2018 EPA mandate to reduce radium levels in its water supply. The city is also addressing problems with declining water quality and water levels in its groundwater system.
The Waukesha Common Council agreed more than 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 Waukesha is located just outside the Great Lakes 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 month as Waukesha looks to develop a new water source.