Though the city's water diversion application faces a potential legal challenge, Waukesha and Oak Creek are still hopeful to have a contract signed by the end of November on a tentative deal the two municipalities reached nearly four years ago.

In late August, a group of mayors from Great Lakes states and Canada challenged the favorable vote in June for Waukesha's request to route water from Lake Michigan as a replacement supply. That group is hoping that the governing body will reconsider the deal that allowed the city to proceed with its plans.

But that has no bearing on the decision by Waukesha and Oak Creek to work together on a formalized deal to channel the water itself.

Imminent deal

"The current request for a hearing before the Compact Council has no impact on our discussions with Waukesha, but could delay when Waukesha can actually receive Oak Creek water," said Mike Sullivan,  general manager of Oak Creek's Water and Sewer Utility.

Sullivan said no construction work, nor related preliminary design work, has been started in Oak Creek at this point, but he is hopeful the contract between the two municipalities will be signed within a month or so.

"I do not anticipate this work to begin until after we have a contract with Waukesha," he said.

Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak, who also pointed to a November goal in finalizing the contract, isn't quite as idle.

Waukesha is currently doing work on its own infrastructure, which needs to be completed whether Waukesha sources its own water or purchases it from Oak Creek, Duchniak said.

But the city anticipates its relationship with Oak Creek will soon begin and remain in place well into the future.

"We're looking forward to a long-term relationship with Oak Creek," Duchniak said.

Waukesha wants to replace 10 wells – seven of which are drawing water contaminated with radium – with water from Lake Michigan, supplied through a water purchase deal with Oak Creek.  Representatives of the governors of eight Great Lakes states approved Waukesha's request in June.

Waukesha will keep three of their wells on emergency reserve in case of any issues with the pipelines.

Determining rates

Sullivan said the two municipalities began discussion the "rate setting methodology" at a joint commission meeting in August, when Waukesha officials also received a tour of Oak Creek's water treatment facility.

"These are preliminary discussions in order to exchange water usage data to refine the computer rate model," Sullivan said.

Sullivan called the contract a significant benefit to all customers of Oak Creek Water Utility's service area, which includes the cities of Oak Creek and Franklin, and the village of Caledonia.

It was previously reported that Waukesha could see a water rate increase, potentially doubling or tripling water costs for Waukesha residents.

By contrast, Sullivan said he expects other customers of Oak Creek's Water Utility to see a potential 20 percent reduction in water rates. Duchniak said that is due to the fact that Waukesha is purchasing water from Oak Creek and it has to travel a greater distance than more local users.

The challenge

The group of mayors challenging the vote and findings leading to it are concerned with the long-term integrity of the Great Lakes and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. They maintain the application didn't meet conditions set forth by the compact.

Duchniak said a request for a hearing regarding this challenge is currently being reviewed.

But he believes the regional body did its due diligence in addressing many of the concerns that have been brought up within the conditions of approval.

"We are confident in the decision and the basis of the decision," Duchniak said.

In a review by the Compact Council, multiple jurisdictions were contacted for input on Waukesha's application.  It was found that Waukesha does not currently have a sustainable source of potable (drinkable/usable) water due to the deep aquifer well withdrawals exceeding the natural recharge rate, making these wells not sustainable.

According to the report, it was also determined Waukeaha doesn't have a reasonable water supply alternative.

The compact is designed to prevent water from being pumped from the Great Lakes beyond counties that straddle the drainage basins of the lakes.  While Waukesha is outside of the basin, it lies within a county that does straddle the boundary, which, under terms of the compact, enabled the city to apply for a water diversion exception.

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