Oak Creek Water Commission makes slight change in Waukesha water deal

OAK CREEK -- Oak Creek's Water Commission has made a slight change in a deal to sell water to Waukesha. A line was added to the deal indicating Oak Creek could get out of it if the rate offered by Waukesha isn't as much as expected.

Waukesha is under court order to find a new water supply soon due to high levels of radium.  Long-term exposure to radium increases the risk of developing several diseases.

Oak Creek agreed to sell Waukesha water for about $183 million.

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.

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.

The Wisconsin DNR has to approve the deal and then, all eight Great Lakes governors have to approve it per the Great Lakes Compact.

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