Waukesha to Milwaukee: Begin Water Sale Negotiations Now or Lose Opportunity
Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak informs Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett that Waukesha "can wait no longer" for the Lake Michigan community to begin negotiations.
Milwaukee’s stance on Waukesha’s future water service area – an area that is set by the Southeastern Regional Planning Commission and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – is preventing the Lake Michigan community from negotiating with Waukesha a water sales agreement, warned Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak in a letter to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
“Milwaukee cannot unilaterally overturn state laws on water supply service areas,” Duchniak said in the letter.
In order to be considered in the negotiation process, Milwaukee must immediately authorize negotiations in “good faith” for Waukesha that would include the city’s entire future water service area. The Milwaukee Common Council recently passed a resolution to begin negotiations with Waukesha, but with the caveat that it only negotiate for water sales to the current water service area. By excluding the future water service area, the resolution has effectively killed negotiations.
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.
“After completion of a year-long preliminary process, we are still waiting for meaningful negotiations to be authorized,” Duchniak said in the letter. “We can wait no longer. In comparison, we were able to commence discussions on details with Oak Creek and Racine almost immediately after our request.”
Waukesha is anticipating a water sales agreement to be finalized between Waukesha and either Oak Creek or Racine by the end of summer.
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 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 week as Waukesha looks to develop a new water source.