Milwaukee Water Deal With Waukesha 'Prematurely Killed'
Waukesha expects deal with Oak Creek or Racine in mid-August after the Milwaukee Common Council halts negotiations based on the city's future service area.
The Milwaukee Common Council has removed itself from Lake Michigan water negotiations with Waukesha, according to Waukesha city leaders.
Milwaukee is refusing to negotiate based on the city’s future water service area – set by the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission – because it includes properties in the Town of Waukesha, Town of Genesee, Town of Delafield and the City of Pewaukee. The Milwaukee Common Council decided Friday morning it will only negotiate with Waukesha for its current water service area.
"We are disappointed that Milwaukee prematurely killed this opportunity to negotiate a historic regional cooperation agreement with Waukesha," said Interim Waukesha City Administrator Steve Crandell in a prepared statement. "The DNR and SEWRPC have both made it clear that neither Milwaukee nor Waukesha has the authority to change the service area.
"In spite of this Milwaukee has refused to negotiate to provide water to the area we are obligated to serve under the state law that adopted the Great Lakes Compact. It is illegal, under state law, to restrict the service area by municipal boundaries.
"Waukesha communicated to Milwaukee that good faith negotiations could address many of their concerns. Unfortunately, with today's vote, Milwaukee has chosen to push our two communities further apart, rather than bring us together."
As a result, Oak Creek and Racine are the two communities left in negotiations. The Oak Creek Water and Sewer Utility has estimated that Oak Creek residents' water bills would go down 25 percent if negotiations are successful.
Crandell estimated that a water sales agreement will be finalized with "competitive prices" by mid-August.
Even with a water sale agreement between Waukesha and Oak Creek or Racine, the city still needs approval from all Great Lakes states because it is just outside the Great Lakes basin where water flows naturally to Lake Michigan. It also would need to return the water to the Great Lakes, which it has proposed to do via Underwood Creek.
In addition to being under a June 2018 deadline to remove radium from the city’s water supplies, the Waukesha Water Utility has declining water quality and quantity in its eight deep wells and three shallow wells.
The city's application to divert the water from Lake Michigan is currently pending with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources