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Great Lakes Article:

Waukesha officials to pursue details on lake water plan
They may question regulators next month
By Darryl Enriquez
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published August 31st, 2004

Waukesha - Local water officials have several opportunities next month to press Great Lakes regulatory officials for details on acquiring 20 million gallons daily from Lake Michigan to replace the city's troubled wells.

Representatives from eight states and two Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes are to gather Sept. 8 at Navy Pier in Chicago for a presentation on possible changes to the charter that regulates water quantity issues, including requests for withdrawals.

The proposed changes are known as the Annex 2001 Amendment to the Great Lakes Charter, which the bordering jurisdictions signed in 1985.

Waukesha officials hope the amendment ultimately will reverse charter policy that forbids most communities outside the Great Lakes basin from withdrawing water. The amendment is in response to a failed 1998 request from a Canadian company to sell 60 million gallons of Lake Superior water to Asia yearly.

Dan Duchniak, general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility, said early versions of the amendment contain "gray areas" that he wants clarified through questions posed at the Chicago gathering or at a Sept. 28 public comment session at State Fair Park in West Allis.

"These mostly are questions for clarification purposes, so we know what we need to go through with our applications," he said. "There are a lot of gray areas."

Questions will include whether the city must return to the basin as much water as it takes from the lake - which includes the larger issue of returning water at all - and whether Waukesha actually is outside the sub-continental divide.

About a year ago, Waukesha officials announced their interest in seeking a pipeline to Lake Michigan.

The city's diminishing supply of groundwater from a deep aquifer, and health concerns surrounding levels of cancer-causing radium in the water, have prompted city officials to pursue the pipeline. An alternative is to develop a well field in western Waukesha County and pipe that water to the city.

The lake proposal is fraught with political problems, one of which is that the city is considered as being outside the sub-continental divide, because groundwater flows west to the Mississippi River and not east to Lake Michigan.

But Waukesha's consultants have said that areas west of what has been considered the divide - a north-south line roughly along Sunny Slope Road - are drawing so much water from the aquifer that Lake Michigan is now recharging the underground water source, instead of the aquifer naturally recharging the lake.

Duchniak said he wants to know whether the amendment will consider the expanded flow of the underground aquifer in the same way it would use surface flow in determining what area is within the sub-continental divide.

Another issue is whether Waukesha would need to return the same amount of water it takes from the lake, which could be a problem, considering that food processing and bottling plants use water that is shipped outside the state.

David Naftzger, executive director for the Council of Great Lakes Governors, said the governors will hear comments and questions about the proposal in Chicago.

The state Department of Natural Resources is to host the West Allis session and four others in Wisconsin on behalf of the council.

Another meeting of the governors is set for Sept. 20 in Toronto.

The council is comprised of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario and Quebec.

From the Aug. 31, 2004, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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