Waukesha, Oak Creek working to put water deal back in motion

Nov. 9, 2012

Waukesha - A proposed amendment to an agreement for Oak Creek to sell Lake Michigan water to the City of Waukesha will put the plan back on track after a one-month delay, Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak said Friday.

The revision clarifies how Waukesha's future rate payments to Oak Creek will be determined, Duchniak said. The amendment is intended to reassure Oak Creek that it will be paid rates that reimburse it for full costs of the service.

The Oak Creek Water & Sewer Commission will review the proposal Tuesday.

Both the Oak Creek and Waukesha common councils are scheduled to adopt the amended agreement at separate meetings on Nov. 20. The Waukesha council discussed the amendment Thursday night in a closed-door session.

Rate payments unexpectedly became an obstacle to sealing the deal in early October when the Wisconsin Public Service Commission 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 out of concern that Oak Creek could no longer recover full costs of providing water service to its wholesale municipal customers.

Waukesha will become Oak Creek's largest customer if the eight Great Lakes states approve Waukesha's request to switch to a lake wa ter supply.

Waukesha is asking Wisconsin and the other seven states for approval to divert up to an average of 10.9 million gallons of lake water a day by 2050 across the subcontinental divide separating the Lake Michigan and Mississippi River watersheds. In 2010, the city's average daily demand from its wells was nearly 6.7 million gallons of water a day.

Nearly all of the lake water sold to Waukesha must be returned to the lake as treated wastewater, under terms of a Great Lakes protection compact.

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

Waukesha would spend an estimated $183 million to build pipelines and pumping stations to bring water inland from Oak Creek and return treated wastewater to the lake.

Oak Creek agrees to supply Waukesha an average of 7 million gallons per day beginning later in this decade, under terms of a letter of intent. Wholesale rates offered to Waukesha are estimated at $1.90 per 1,000 gallons of water.

To pay the costs of establishing a lake water supply, average monthly residential water bills in Waukesha would climb to $58.26 by 2022, up $32.26 a month from this year, according to a Waukesha Water Utility analysis.

All other water options, including drilling more wells, would be more expensive and less sustainable than a lake supply, Duchniak said.

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