DNR tells Barrett water talks must cover broader Waukesha service area
The state Department of Natural Resources will require any municipality, including Milwaukee, selling Lake Michigan water to the City of Waukesha to supply its entire future water service area and not just the city, Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp said Thursday in a letter to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Willie Hines.
Stepp’s declaration appears to be a setback for Barrett’s strategy to contain Waukesha’s development by limiting lake water distribution to its existing service area encompassing the city and 112 or so residences and businesses in the Town of Waukesha.
The refusal of Milwaukee officials to discuss distribution of water to the larger future service area has created an impasse: Milwaukee has not opened talks with Waukesha over a possible sale of Lake Michigan water.
Waukesha has been negotiating a possible water purchase with Oak Creek and Racine for a full year. It is estimated Milwaukee would reap at least $3 million a year in revenue from Waukesha under a water purchase agreement.
Draft agreements with both of those potential suppliers likely will be discussed at a Waukesha Common Council meeting in late August, Waukesha Water Utility general manager Dan Duchniak said Thursday.
In a July 18 letter to Stepp, Barrett and Hines questioned whether a supplier of lake water to Waukesha would be required to allow distribution of the water to a future service area extending into portions of four municipalities.
They got their reply Thursday with Stepp spelling out her decision: “The Department cannot allow a diversion application to proceed with a water supplier that categorically refuses to serve jurisdictions within the service area.”
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