Waukesha gets OK on short, but critical stretch of its Lake Michigan pipeline
The City of Waukesha could start breaking ground on a short, but critical stretch of water pipeline in just a matter of weeks, thanks to a Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors decision Thursday afternoon.
Waukesha is well on its way to complete a 35-mile pipeline that will convey Lake Michigan water from Milwaukee to Waukesha and then return it —after it’s used, and treated— to Lake Michigan via the Root River.
It took years of planning and unanimous approval from all eight Great Lakes governors to OK the diversion under strict Great Lakes Compact rules.
Milwaukee County entered the picture well into construction when crews ran into an unexpected interceptor sewer pipe in Franklin.
Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman picked up the story at the Thursday county board meeting.
“The initial deal was $100,000 for the 100-year lease,” Wasserman says.
That’s what Waukesha offered for the short stretch of land along Ryan Road near 60th Street in Franklin in order to work around the unexpected gap in its pipeline.
Wasserman negotiated for more money and the ability for Milwaukee County to check on their agreement more frequently.
“The total amount comes to $275,000 rather than the initial $100,000. We also have oversight every 25 years. I think this is a win for Milwaukee County,” Wasserman says. “I also see this as a win for Waukesha County residents, they’re going to solve a problem.”
Waukesha has more than one problem. The city’s existing drinking water is tainted with radium. It’s under court order to switch to a sustainable clean source by Sept.1 of next year.
Milwaukee county officials didn’t dispute the project’s importance, but Supervisor Ryan Clancy worries environmental issues might pop up over time. For example, Waukesha is only required to monitor the Root River where it returns its water for a decade.
“It made me nervous that the water quality testing is just those first ten years,” Clancy says.
On Thursday afternoon, no one from Waukesha was asked to speak during Milwaukee County’s deliberations. But Waukesha’s water utility general manager Dan Duchniak could be seen quietly sitting at the back of council chambers.
Over the years, he’s conferred with the seven cities, towns and villages the pipeline cuts through and negotiated more than 80 permits.
Thursday’s Milwaukee County 16-1 vote cleared the way for this final piece.