Oak Creek agrees to deal to supply Waukesha with water

OAK CREEK -- The cities of Oak Creek and Waukesha have reached an agreement on a deal to supply Waukesha with water from Lake Michigan.

Waukesha has known for years it needs a new water source. That's because the city's water has high levels of radium. Long-term exposure to radium increases the risk of developing several diseases. Therefore, Waukesha was under a court order to get a new water source.

Under the terms of the agreement, wholesale water rates for the sale would be $1.90 per 1,000 gallons of water, for up to 11 million gallons per day. Waukesha, per the Great Lakes Compact, will be responsible for the return of the water back to the Great Lakes basin. 

Dan Duchniak has been working on behalf of Waukesha for nearly a decade to find a new water source. Duchniak says the city will accomplish return the water to the Great Lakes basin via the Underwood Creek or the Root River. Both feed into Lake Michigan.

"It's an environmentally favorable alternative, it is most protective of public health, most sustainable and most reasonable option for the city of Waukesha," Duchniak said.

The cost of the water supply project is an estimated $183 million, most of it going to Oak Creek.

Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi says the water deal will reduce his city's taxes and possibly reduce water bills by up to 25%.

"We're ready now. What has to be built is the water transmission line which is an extensive project and could take up to five years. (The water transmission line) would have to connect Oak Creek's facility with whatever they're putting in place in Waukesha," Scaffidi said.

Waukesha had been negotiating with the city of Milwaukee, but talks broke down over the size of Waukesha's service area. Some argued politics were at play, but Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said it's about following the law.

"I don't see it going through in its current form. I think it will be vetoed by another state or get sent back, and those areas are going to be dropped because it doesn't come close to meeting the standards of the Great Lakes Compact," Mayor Barrett said.

This is far from a done deal. First, the Wisconsin DNR has to approve the deal and then, all eight Great Lakes governors have to approve it per the Great Lakes Compact.