Contract negotiations delay Waukesha water plan

Posted at 12:33 PM, Nov 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-18 13:34:03-05

Waukesha's plan to get its drinking water from Lake Michigan continues to move forward, but contract negotiations are delaying the process. 

Under the plan approved by the Great Lakes States and Provinces, as well as the Wisconsin DNR, Waukesha will purchase Lake Michigan water from Oak Creek. 
A letter of intent was agreed upon between the two cities in 2012. However, that letter expires at the end of the month. Dan Duchniak, General Manager of the Waukesha Water Utility, said it'll likely be extended six more months as the two municipalities hammer out a final price for the water. 
Duchniak said Waukesha needed to have consultants hired and in place to begin working on the engineering side of the project and did not want to do so until after the Great Lakes States and Provinces approved the plan. Because the approval didn't come until June, the discussions with Oak Creek were delayed. 
"We're hopeful we'll have those contract negotiations complete early next year," Duchniak said. 
Duchniak said only after a deal with Oak Creek is reached can the city began planning a route for piping the water to Waukesha. 
Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said the total price tag of the plan remains $206-million dollars based on city estimates. 
According to the Mayor, a drying up aquifer and radium contamination mean the city's drinking water supply is currently safe but not sustainable long term. 
He said residents in Waukesha could see their water payment double, or even triple, when the city begins using the water supply from Lake Michigan. 
"It's not the total bill that's going to double or triple, it's going to be a portion -- the rate for water," Reilly said. 
A court order calls for Waukesha to have a new drinking water supply in place by July 2018. Duchniak said due to the length of the approval process Waukesha will seek an extension. He's hoping the city can begin using Lake Michigan water in roughly five years.