Court Hears Arguments On Lake Michigan Pipeline Case Involving Two Waukeshas

Feb 12, 2021

A dispute between two Waukeshas over construction permits for the water pipes that would connect the city of Waukesha to Lake Michigan has had its first day in court.

The digging for the $286 million project aimed at providing a cleaner water supply for the city of Waukesha started a couple months ago. Under the planned route, the two pipes — one bringing drinking water from Milwaukee, the other sending treated wastewater back through Racine to the lake — have to pass through the city's southerly neighbor, the Village of Waukesha, which used to be the Town of Waukesha. The village wants a county judge to issue a temporary restraining order halting the project.

Stan Riffle is an attorney representing the village. He said during a hearing Thursday that the much smaller community should be able to require the city to get permits.

"The village has every right to require people that want to come in and dig anywhere in the village to come in and get a permit, whether it's in the village right of way, county right of way, or state trunk right of way. The village has citizens residing adjacent to these rights of way, and the village has not only a right, but the duty to look out for their well-being, under the police power —  health, safety and welfare of its citizens,” Riffle said.

Pipeline pipe placed on frozen ground along Highway Y in New Berlin.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

But a Madison attorney representing the city of Waukesha, Ted Waskowski, said the permit issue was worked out in an intergovernmental agreement reached in 2018.

"That agreement was to negotiate what was required to build the pipeline. There was a tremendous amount of discussion. The technical and professional people on both sides were there. They hashed it out. They came to an agreement," he said.

Waskowski argued the Village of Waukesha is taking the city to court because the village doesn't like that the city has filed a legal challenge to the village's 2020 incorporation.

Machinery for the pipeline project along State Highways 59 and 164 in the city of Waukesha.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Waukesha County Judge Lloyd Carter said he'll rule on the injunction request on Monday afternoon, Feb. 15. The request is part of a village lawsuit against the city, making for two cases where one Waukesha is suing the other.