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Milwaukee Mayor Barrett Says He's Pleased With Waukesha Water Deal


Waukesha leaders continued to celebrate on Wednesday. Earlier this week, all eight Great Lakes states voted to allow the city to draw water from Lake Michigan.

The city sits outside the Great Lakes basin but says it needs the water because Waukesha’s underground supply is running low and is tainted with radium. Waukesha plans to pump-in Lake Michigan water from Oak Creek’s utility because talks with Milwaukee did not advance.

Gov. Walker kicked off a celebratory news conference in Waukesha on Wednesday. He says it should be noted that Waukesha’s water application was approved by both Republican and Democratic governors.

“Any other talk runs flat in the face of the argument of the scientific basis upon which this decision was made,” Walker says.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says he too, is pleased with the accord.

“I felt that it was very important that whatever occurred, occurred in accordance and agreement with the Great Lakes Compact and the steps taken by the governors went a long way to ensuring that the Great Lakes Compact remains a meaningful and respected document,” Barrett says.

Barrett says, in particular, he’s happy with two caveats the Great Lakes governors inserted into the deal. One is, that Waukesha use no more than about eight million gallons of lake water per day. City leaders had wanted ten million. The other stipulation is that Waukesha will be limited in how wide an area it can distribute Lake Michigan water. Initially, it intended to service more communities.

“I think those are very much in conformance with the Great Lakes compact and I think they are changes that certainly Waukesha can live with. I think they’re very happy that the sale was approved and I think the service area and the reduced volume are certainly things that I didn’t hear any howls of displeasure from, from Waukesha,” Barrett says.

Barrett says the water plan the Great Lakes governors approved was nearly identical to what Milwaukee had demanded – in order to partner with Waukesha on a potential water sale. When those discussions did not advance, Waukesha struck a deal with Oak Creek, and will build a pipe system to connect with the suburb’s water utility. Waukesha will return its water to Lake Michigan via the Root River.

Barrett predicts it will be several years before Waukesha actually begins drawing water from the lake, because the city must now move through the Wisconsin DNR’s permitting process. Waukesha leaders say they hope to begin drinking Lake Michigan water by 2018.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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