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Oak Creek signs off on Waukesha water deal

Nov. 20, 2012

Waukesha - The City of Waukesha's history-making quest for Lake Michigan water moved a step forward this week as Oak Creek officials signed a revised letter of intent to be the seller.

Waukesha's Common Council approved the revision at its meeting Tuesday. The letter must be signed by Mayor Jeff Scrima and Treasurer Thomas Neill before the agreement can be forwarded to the state Department of Natural Resources for its review.

This water deal is one of the last pieces Waukesha needs to complete its application to divert up to an average of 10.9 million gallons of lake water a day by 2050 across the subcontinental divide separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds, Water Utility general manager Dan Duchniak said.

But sealing the deal with signatures was delayed more than one month after wholesale rate payments unexpectedly became an obstacle in early October. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission at the time ruled Oak Creek could not bill Franklin for providing adequate volume and pressure for fighting fires as part of its wholesale charges to the community.

Oak Creek water officials subsequently declined to sign Waukesha's agreement if it could not be guaranteed of recovering full costs of providing water service to wholesale municipal customers.

The letter of intent was amended to include a one-paragraph guarantee Oak Creek could recover total costs of providing wholesale water to Waukesha. The statement provided the reassurance Oak Creek officials needed to sign the agreement, Water & Sewer Utility general manager Steve Yttri said Tuesday.

Water & Sewer Commission Chairman Gerald Wille and commission Secretary Fredrick Siepert signed for their municipality.

Wisconsin and each of the other seven Great Lakes states must approve the diversion before Waukesha would become the first community wholly outside the lakes' basin to receive water under terms of a Great Lakes protection compact. The Wisconsin DNR will determine whether the application complies with compact requirements before it is forwarded to the other states.

Talks with Franklin

Any pipeline between Oak Creek and Waukesha would cross Franklin, and officials there expect to hold off discussing routes with Waukesha until after the DNR's action on the diversion proposal, Franklin city engineer Jack Bennett said.

The pipeline likely would be connected to Oak Creek's system at S. 27th St. and W. Puetz Road, Duchniak said. It would end with a connection to Waukesha's system at state Highway 164, or Les Paul Parkway, and Racine Ave.

One possible route crossing Franklin from S. 27th St. follows Puetz Road west to state Highway 100 then north on St. Martins Road to Muskego, Bennett said.

Franklin and Waukesha could benefit from this proposal since Franklin has built 75% of a large main along Puetz Road between S. 27th and S. 76th streets, he said. Waukesha could help pay to complete the main and save costs.

Franklin also would like to extend a large water main west along Ryan Road to Highway 100 now that there is sewer service in that corner of the city, according to Bennett.

The two cities could discuss cost sharing for that route as well, he said.

The letter of intent commits Oak Creek to supply Waukesha an average of 7 million gallons of lake water per day beginning later in this decade. Wholesale rates charged to Waukesha are estimated at $1.90 per 1,000 gallons of water.

The volume likely would be increased based on annual water demand up to the time the diversion begins around 2018.

In 2011, the city's average daily demand from its wells was 6.97 million gallons of water a day and that figure is expected to exceed an average of 7 million gallons a day this year because of a prolonged summer drought.

Waukesha would stop using deep wells drawing radium-contaminated water from sandstone if the application is approved by the Great Lakes states.

After the diversion begins, Waukesha could not increase its annual demand for water from Oak Creek by more than 150,000 gallons per day, under the agreement. If the city pumped an average of 8 million gallons a day one year, it could not pump more than an average of 8.15 million gallons a day the next year and it would be limited to 8.3 million gallons a day the year after that.

The letter of intent holds Waukesha responsible for constructing the pipeline and pumping stations needed to transport the water inland and return treated wastewater to the lake. The Great Lakes compact would require nearly all the lake water sold to Waukesha to be returned to the lake. Cost of building the facilities is estimated at $183 million.

Waukesha's preferred discharge location is Underwood Creek in Brookfield. The creek is a tributary of the Menomonee River. The DNR has asked Waukesha for additional analysis of the impact of discharging treated wastewater to the Root River.

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