Milwaukee Water Deal With Waukesha 'Prematurely Killed'
Milwaukee Common Council halts negotiations with Waukesha based on city's future service area; Waukesha expects water deal with Oak Creek or Racine in mid-August.
The Milwaukee Common Council has removed itself from negotiations as a potential water supplier of Lake Michigan water to Waukesha, city leaders say.
Milwaukee is refusing to negotiate based on the city’s future water service area – set by officials with the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission – because it includes properties in the Town of Waukesha, Town of Genesee, Town of Delafield and the City of Pewaukee. The Milwaukee Common Council decided Friday morning it will only negotiate with Waukesha for its current water service area.
“We are disappointed that Milwaukee prematurely killed this opportunity to negotiate a historic regional cooperation agreement with Waukesha,” said Interim City Administrator Steve Crandell in a prepared statement. “The DNR and SEWRPC have both made it clear that neither Milwaukee nor Waukesha has the authority to change the service area.
“In spite of this Milwaukee has refused to negotiate to provide water to the area we are obligated to serve under the state law that adopted the Great Lakes Compact. It is illegal, under state law, to restrict the service area by municipal boundaries.
"Waukesha communicated to Milwaukee that good faith negotiations could address many of their concerns. Unfortunately, with today’s vote, Milwaukee has chosen to push our two communities further apart, rather than bring us together.”
Milwaukeeans will lose the opportunity to save millions from their water bills by the loss of a water sale to Waukesha, Crandell said. Negotiations will continue with Oak Creek and Racine as Waukesha looks to those communities as potential water suppliers. Crandell estimated that a water sales agreement will be finalized with “competitive prices” with the Lake Michigan communities.
Milwaukee, in the city's Great Lakes water diversion application, was identified as being the least costly of all three Lake Michigan providers.
Even with a water sale agreement between Waukesha and Oak Creek or Racine, the city still needs approval from all Great Lakes states because it is just outside the Great Lakes basin where water flows 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, the Waukesha Water Utility has declining water quality and quantity in its eight deep wells and three shallow wells.
The city's application to divert the water from Lake Michigan is currently pending with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources