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Green Bay: Dry up, suburbs
Green Bay tells Water Authority it won't build a pipeline but instead will increase pumping and filtering capacity
By Ray Barrington
Green Bay News-Chronicle

The Green Bay Water Commission told the City Council Tuesday night it plans to drop its request for a new pipeline to Lake Michigan and instead will boost pumping and filtering capacity on its present line.

The move comes after the Central Brown County Water Authority filed a request with the state Public Service Commission to intervene in the city's plans for a new pipeline to the lake. The city and suburbs that make up the authority have been negotiating for the suburban purchase of city water.

The city commission said it would approve the move at its Tuesday meeting if the suburbs don't withdraw the request to the PSC.

"We don't feel the PSC belongs in the negotiations," said Mayor Jim Schmitt.

The council did not take any official action, but almost all of the comments on the commission's suggestion were positive.

Water authority president Len Teresinski, village president of Hobart, was in a meeting Tuesday and could not be reached for comment. The authority is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. today at the Ashwaubenon Village Hall, and again Thursday to present options to village officials.

Schmitt said that if the suburbs withdrew the request, negotiations could resume at the point where they ended, which was relatively close to an agreement. The two sides need to reach an agreement by Sept. 1, when the commission had to decide on the size of a new pipeline.

The request of the PSC shocked the city, which fears the PSC could require a pipeline serving both sides, setting rates that would almost double city users' water rates.

Even if the city won, it might face delays because of court appeals, keeping it from building the pipeline and being unable to meet water demands in 2005.

"We will not be held hostage," said Charlie Parke of the city's Water Commission.

The new plan from the city commission would:
- Withdraw the city's request to build a new pipeline to the lake.

- Expand the city system's filtering and pumping capacity to 42 million gallons a day.

With the available three wells, the city could meet its needs for 20 years, said commission vice chairman John Brogan.

It could be more if the city is able to use aquifer storage and recovery, which keeps treated water in underground wells. If not, the city would build a larger pipeline at a later date.

"We're deferring significant capital investment during the time we're trying to prove ASR works or not," Parke said.

He estimated the move would cost residential rate-payers an estimated 34-cent per 1,000-gallon hike.

The plan does carry an increased risk of a line break, Brogan said, with the city planning to keep spare parts on hand and working with its supplier for a four-hour response time for any problem.

He said the suburbs, in the words of a legal brief by commission attorneys, were trying to "hijack" the pipeline.

"I would urge you to question their real objectives - do they want Green Bay water at bargain prices while driving up the costs of Green Bay residents?" Brogan asked.

"The authority threw some manure into the fan, and they're going to get back what they deserve - some manure in their face," Ald. Guy Zima said. "If we can't get something done quickly with these people, let's go on our own."

Still, Brogan said, the city would be willing to supply water to an ASR system that could serve the suburbs.

"We would supply water if it's win-win and technically feasible," he said. "I question the leadership of the CBCWA in making that move," said Ald. Chris Wery. "I don't believe Joe Citizen in the suburbs really knows what's going on."

Ald. Dan Haefs expressed concern about the strain on the pipeline, which has been in operation since the 1950s. Parke said the average life expectancy of a pipeline is 100 years and the plan was to replace it after 75 years.

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