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Oak Creek-Waukesha Water Talks Still Uncertain

The Oak Creek Water and Sewer Utility says it can't continue talks with Waukesha about providing Lake Michigan water unless cost-sharing between Oak Creek and Franklin is worked out.

The Oak Creek Water and Sewer Utility says it's "willing to continue talks with Waukesha" about providing Lake Michigan water, but only if it can achieve fair cost sharing for its existing customers first.

The utility released a statement Tuesday morning regarding the Public Service Commission's decision that shifted costs-of-service from Franklin to Oak Creek and results in a subsidy by Oak Creek of about $366,375, according to Utility General Manager Steve Yttri.

If the decision stands, the average quarterly increase for Oak Creek would be $17.06, compared to an $8.14 increase for Franklin.

Oak Creek is fighting the PSC's ruling, Yttri said, but doesn't know when its appeal will be heard.

The PSC decision came one day after the Oak Creek and Waukesha common councils approved a letter of intent to move forward on a contract for Lake Michigan water.

The ruling creates "a financial disincentive for Oak Creek to provide service to another wholesale customer," the utility said in the statement.

Yttri said in an interview that while the Waukesha contract and Franklin cost-sharing are two separate issues, "they're intertwined because the Franklin situation sends a signal about how the PSC is going to judge wholesale service." The PSC has to approve the Waukesha-Oak Creek contract.

The PSC, for its part, has said it disagrees with Oak Creek's view of the ruling.

"The (PSC) commission believes that its modified decision allocates costs appropriately between retail and wholesale customers. Franklin is paying the correct amount, and Oak Creek is not subsidizing Franklin," according to Kristin Ruesch, PSC communications director.

Waukesha spent about a year and a half negotiating with Racine and Oak Creek for Lake Michigan water due to radium levels that put the city's water supply out of legal compliance. That forced Waukesha to either treat or replace its water supply by 2018. The city's wells also face problems with declining water quality due to arsenic and saltwater and with a limited groundwater supply.

The timeframe for Waukesha to replace its water supply is tight, and the city still must receive approval from Great Lakes states.

It's not clear what impact the PSC's ruling and subsequent delay will have on Waukesha's quest for Lake Michigan water. The city spent more than a year and a half in negotiations with Racine and Oak Creek.

Oak Creek favored the sale because it could generate revenue and lead to a 25 percent drop in residents' water bills, officials said.

Resident of O.C. Paul October 10, 2012 at 12:53 PM
All parties involved in this deal keep forgetting that any plan to divert water from any of the great lakes has to be approved by the Great Lakes Commission. Oak Creek, Franklin and Waukesha are just greedy and keep thinking that they are the only ones that have to approve of this project...how WRONG they are. They have NO idea of the trouble they can cause should they go through with the project and then have the Great Lakes Commission find out that their approval was not sought...Besides, how can Waukesha Guarantee that 100% of the water diverted from Lake Michigan goes back into Lake Michigan? Water used for washing cars, watering lawns and flower beds can not be recovered when it seeps into the ground. To make up for these losses is Waukesha going to make up the difference by adding in their Radium tainted water to send back to Lake Michigan? Always better to pass your problem onto someone else instead of cleaning it up on your own. Following greed and your ego blindly and not listening to others only causes more trouble than what it's worth.
vocal local 1 October 11, 2012 at 06:43 AM
The Great Lakes Compact that was passed back in 2007 mainly took care of the issues of selling water to communities outside the basin. Here is a link to a Legislative Council memo on the Compact if you wish to read it: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lc/publications/im/im_2008_04.pdf With passage of the Great Lakes Compact in 2007 there was a Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council created. The members of this Council are the Governor’s of each of the Great Lakes States or their appointee; How much ya wanna bet Walker will vote in favor?. Here is the website for that council: http://www.glslcompactcouncil.org/Membership.aspx Our rates never go down. We've been told by city representatives for years that as the sewer and water developed and served more residents that our rates would go down but they steadily go up. This deal with Franklin is the responsibility of management. They should have to eat the cost. It should not be passed on to the consumer. Again, would someone please explain the Salts in the return water? What kind of salts? Where are they coming from and what effect will they have over time on fresh water? Our beaches are sure going to smell and look nice if huge Asian Carp wash up dead now won't they?

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