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Great Lakes Article:

Compact to allow Waukesha County
access to Lake Michigan water
Hurdles remain in language on return of wastewater
By Dennis A. Shook
GM Today
Published November 21, 2005


WAUKESHA - Waukesha County communities will be allowed to hook up to Lake Michigan water under the compact that is to be signed by the Council of Great Lakes Governors on Dec. 13 in Milwaukee.
That was confirmed in an interview Friday with The Freeman by Dan Leistikow, spokesman for Gov. Jim Doyle.

But the question remains whether Waukesha and other communities will seek to hook up to Lake Michigan water.

Considering the rules regarding that access, that is anything but certain.

Leistikow confirmed that in the final compact regulating the use of Lake Michigan water, Waukesha County would still be considered a "straddling county," a designation contained in a draft version of the compact.

Waukesha is west of the subcontinental divide that marks the western edge of the basin. But the eastern part of Waukesha County is within that basin, particularly those parts east of Sunnyslope Road in New Berlin. Under the new compact, that would mean that all Waukesha County communities would be able to access Lake Michigan water.

But the hangup could be that the document still requires the return of a like amount of wastewater to Milwaukee that Waukesha would use.

Waukesha Water Utility Manager Dan Duchniak has said returning the wastewater would cost "hundreds of millions of dollars" and would be "prohibitively expensive."

Waukesha has a pressing problem with too much radium in its water and has been seeking ways to meet impending federal requirements to deal with the problem.

If the city is forced to try to use existing water supplies and treat them, the increase in household water bills could be from the current average of $196 per year to $440 per year, based on city estimates.

The city is considering drilling shallow wells west of Waukesha, where the water supply would not be so contaminated.

The city is also looking at possibly blending other water sources with the contaminated water to meet the federal standard for radium remediation.

Waukesha Mayor Carol Lombardi Friday called the news from Doyle’s spokesman "exciting" and said she hopes the agreement allows for groundwater recharge to be considered in the amount of return to Milwaukee.

But the news was not received favorably by the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes, which has been an outspoken opponent of Waukesha tapping into Lake Michigan.

Cheryl Mendoza, manager of the group’s water conservation programs, said, "I feel that the communities that want a diversion will have to show they can’t meet their needs through conservation."

Mendoza added, "I think Waukesha has a long way to go with on-the-ground water conservation. Everything we have heard about what Waukesha proposing - we’re adamant that water needs to be returned, and the first step is a serious conservation program to see if existing water needs can be met first through conservation."

Leistikow also discussed another important distinction in the pact, which would allow "an equivalent amount of water to be returned to Milwaukee and not the exact same water."

That possibly opens up an avenue for using other sources of water for return, which could prove to be less expensive for the city.

Duchniak said he would have to read the compact and ask questions before he could comment.

Leistikow said the compact signing is expected to occur at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee on Dec. 13.

Dennis A. Shook can be reached at dshook@conleynet.com

 

 

 

 

 

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