Wisconsin Energy's lake water
plan makes waves
Milwaukee Business Journal
Opponents of Wisconsin Energy Corp.'s plans to build two
new coal-fired power plants in Oak Creek are lobbying
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny the utility's
plan to daily draw 2.2 billion gallons of Lake Michigan
Environmental groups contend that the volume of water
that would be used, which is 83 percent higher than what
Wisconsin Energy currently uses, could impact the ecology
of Lake Michigan. Opponents hope to force the company
to develop a different water usage plan, a prospect that
could delay construction of the $2.2 billion plants, which
are part of the utility's Power the Future plan.
"Environmentalists have concerns about the lake's
aquatic resources when drawing that much water,"
said Steve Bulik, a Racine resident and member of Citizens
for Responsible Power, a group trying to stop construction
of the coal plants.
Wisconsin Energy proposes building a $150 million water
intake system that would be the size of five football
fields and located more than a mile off the Lake Michigan
shore. The water would be used for cooling generation
boilers in the new power plants.
The Wisconsin Energy proposal would not only disturb
the Lake Michigan lake bed and sediment, but the increased
capacity of the intake system will endanger aquatic life
in the lake, Bulik said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' regional office in
St. Paul received a redesigned water intake system plan
March 8 and will rule on the company's application for
a construction permit in June, said Bob Whiting, director
of the agency's regulatory division.
Tim Smith, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager
on the Power the Future plan, declined to comment on the
status of the application. Wisconsin Energy has made numerous
changes to the application and the Corps of Engineers
is evaluating the impact that the intake system will have
on aquatic life, wetlands, the lake bed and navigation
on Lake Michigan, Smith said.
In late 2003, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission
approved the Wisconsin Energy Corp. plan to build the
Elm Road Generating Station in Oak Creek, despite opposition
from several environmental and citizens groups. Final
PSC approval is contingent upon the company obtaining
air and water permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
and the Corps of Engineers.
The proposed intake system, known as a once-through-cooling
system, will circulate water around the boilers. In comparison,
the city of Milwaukee Water Works uses about 120 million
gallons per day. The four coal plants at the Oak Creek
generating station currently use about 1.2 billion gallons
The 2.2 billion-gallons-a-day rate is equivalent to using
all the water in a 645-acre lake that is 10 feet deep,
according to the Corps of Engineers.
The water intake structure Wisconsin Energy proposes
would be 1.5 miles from the plant in Lake Michigan. The
structure would include 72 torpedo-shaped tubes, each
measuring seven feet in diameter and 25 feet long. The
network of tubes would cover an area on the lake bed 300
feet by 760 feet, which is roughly the same area as five