Oak Creek-Waukesha water talks make waves with Franklin mayor

PSC ruling throws wrench in works

Oct. 10, 2012

Franklin - Mayor Tom Taylor this week said he is not happy with the way the proposed Oak Creek-to-Waukesha water sale has been playing out.

Taylor's concern is that no one from either municipality has formally approached his city's elected officials with a proposal. After all, he said, the proposed transmission of water from Oak Creek to Waukesha would require construction of a pipeline through at least the western part of the municipality.

"There has been no request for any meeting with the city of Franklin by any of the elected people representing Waukesha or Oak Creek and, from what I read, I would think Franklin has a lot to say," Taylor said. "One would think that if two communities are looking to construct something and it is going through another municipality, they would come in with a plan or a proposed contract."

Taylor said his concern includes just how much of Franklin's land will be torn up to install the pipelines and accompanying pumping stations.

Rate complication

Oak Creek and Waukesha were set to form an agreement last week that would have begun the process of Oak Creek's Water Utility selling water wholesale to Waukesha. But a Public Service Commission ruling denying Oak Creek's request to raise its rate for Franklin, another wholesale customer of the utility, by more than 41 percent has caused Oak Creek to have second thoughts.

Officials there had said they are set to challenge the PSC ruling - which agreed that Franklin's rate be raised 23.7 percent and demanded that Oak Creek's ratepayers pay a 22.13 percent increase - in circuit court.

Oak Creek asserts the PSC ruling hinders that community's ability to provide water to Waukesha. The appeal process will take at least another month.

Taylor said any increase would be unacceptable given the current economy.

"You have two communities working on a water deal that potentially will be very disruptive to Franklin and then you add to that the fact that our water rates would increase," Taylor said. He also noted that there may be opposition about the possibility of return wastewater being discharged into the Root River.

Because Waukesha is outside the Great Lakes Basin, the water deal also needs approval from members of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resource Compact. Those members include Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Year-long approval

Dan Duchniak, general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility, said the current application process includes an environmental impact study that must pass through the state Department of Natural Resources and that he expects to hear back from the other states in the compact within the next few months.

The entire process will take about a year, he said.

Duchniak said he expects Waukesha's eventual multimillion dollar annual payment for water will benefit all of Oak Creek's customers, including Franklin.

"I would think that the extra revenue could reduce costs to other customers," he said.

Mayors to talk

Taylor said Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi this week agreed to "talk about the situation over a cup of coffee."

While noting the water utility is a separate governmental entity, Scaffidi said he welcomes the opportunity to talk and do whatever he can to make a future plan work. He added that the recent decrease in Oak Creek's water rate proposal is not sufficient.

"There is a lot of work to be done before anything formal is in place," Scaffidi said, "but I am willing to do whatever it takes to make it work. I think everyone will benefit from it."

Waukesha is seeking a water deal for Lake Michigan water because water from its deep wells contains a level of radon deemed unacceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency.


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