Is Milwaukee Water Deal With Waukesha Dead?
Milwaukee aldermen's stance on Waukesha's future water service area could kill negotiations before the negotiations formally begin.
While Waukesha’s been knee-deep in negotiations to purchase Lake Michigan water from Oak Creek and Racine, the toes are barely dipping in with Milwaukee.
Waukesha’s attempt to start negotiations with Milwaukee came to an apparent stop after a Milwaukee Common Council voted to begin negotiations with Waukesha – on the condition that negotiations include only the current water service area in Waukesha. Waukesha, however, is seeking a water sale for its future service area, which includes portions of the Town of Waukesha, Town of Genesee and the City of Pewaukee. The Milwaukee aldermen do not want to negotiate a water sales deal that would include those communities.
However, Waukesha’s future water service area is not set by the city. It is under the jurisdiction of the Southeastern Regional Planning Commission and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Neither Waukesha or Milwaukee have control over that service area, Duchniak said.
“It just makes little sense that Milwaukee would disqualify itself from consideration to save the taxpayers $3 million a year with Waukesha coming on as a customer because of an issue that they can’t control,” he said.
The DNR will not allow the service area to be amended to only include Waukesha, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told the Public Works Committee that excluding the rural communities would not significantly lessen the amount of money Milwaukee would receive from Waukesha.
“When I first looked at the map I was struck but what I perceived by the fact that a lot of this area is outside the city of Waukesha,” said Barrett. “… The fact remains that when we are talking here about the sale of water to Waukesha.”
Duchniak said the water utility did not have an opportunity to present information during the Milwaukee committee meeting. Testimony presented during the meeting was "one-sided," he said.
"We would have been able to clarify some of the inaccurate information that was provided in the testimony," Duchniak said. "It was unfortunate that we were not provided that opportunity."
- Check out the attachments to this article for communications between Waukesha and Milwaukee about negotiations.
The city needs approval from all Great Lakes states because it is just outside the Subcontinental Divide where water flow naturally to Lake Michigan. It also would need to return the water to the Great Lakes, which it has proposed to do via Underwood Creek.
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.
The city's application to divert the water past the Subcontinental Divide is currently pending with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.