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Great Lakes Article:

Wisconsin Energy's lake water plan makes waves
Pete Millard
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 water.

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.

Intake system

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 per day.

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 football fields.

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