A decision on Waukesha's water diversion application will have to wait at least a little while longer.
Discussions last week by the Great Lakes Regional Body, which is reviewing the proposal, prompted another reduction in the service area and led to calls for an extension of the talks about the findings of fact regarding the diversion request.
Mayor Shawn Reilly adamantly refused to speculate about the outcome of the application process.
Regional body members — which include representatives from the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces — were scheduled to continue their discussion Wednesday, May 18, during a conference call. Once the body has finished discussing the findings of fact, the application will be put to a vote by the governors of the Great Lakes states for a final verdict.
That vote was originally scheduled for June 13, but will be pushed back a week to accommodate the additional talks.
Smaller service area
The regional body's conversations resulted in another trimming of the proposed service area, which has been reduced three times and now only includes the city of Waukesha and town of Waukesha 'islands' — those portions of the town completely surrounded by city land.
The service area was cut to an average of 8.2 million gallons per day by mid-century, down from 8.4 million gallons and the previously proposed 8.76 million gallons and 10.1 million gallons. The city is asking to pump that water from Lake Michigan.
Three neighboring communities that had previously been included in the service area — the towns of Genesee and Delafield and the city of Pewaukee — have been removed entirely.
Reilly said the smaller service area could affect future development.
'If (the new service area) is ultimately what's decided, then the city of Waukesha will be limited in what they can develop,' Reilly said in an interview Monday, May 16. 'But there's still some opportunity for development' within the city limits.
However, Reilly emphasized that he would not speculate on the final determination.
'Speculating at this point really doesn't serve the city,' he said.
Waukesha is under a court-ordered deadline to have radium-compliant water by 2018 and needs a new water source. Studies have indicated continued use of Waukesha's current deep well water supply is unsustainable.
The water diversion application was filed by the city, which is outside the Great Lakes Basin, in 2010 in an attempt to meet its long-term water needs and comply with radium restrictions.
The city's application for Lake Michigan water is the first of its kind, but it's allowed under a provision — called a 'straddling county' exception — of the Great Lakes Compact, a federal law that details how the Great Lakes states should work together to manage and protect the Great Lakes Basin.
A state DNR study determined last summer, after years of review, that Waukesha's application complies with the compact.
According to the proposal, the water would flow to the city through the Oak Creek Water Utility, and 100 percent of it would be returned to Lake Michigan via the Root River, a tributary that flows to the lake, through Franklin, Oak Creek, Caledonia and Racine.
Approval of the application is contingent upon a unanimous, favorable vote.