Milwaukee and Waukesha officials celebrate start of construction for water pipeline

Officials involved in the new water project take a shovel of dirt as part of the groundbreaking. From left to right: Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak, Waukesha Common Council President Cassie Rodriguez, Waukesha Water Utility Commission President Joe Piatt, Milwaukee Alderman Mark Borkowski, Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson, Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Karen Dettmer and Milwaukee DPW Commissioner Jeff Polenske

Last updated on December 2nd, 2020 at 11:59 am

Officials from Milwaukee and Waukesha on Monday held a ceremony to mark the start of construction for a water pipeline to supply the city of Waukesha with a new water source, Lake Michigan water from the city of Milwaukee.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held at the corner of West Oklahoma Avenue and South 76th Street in Milwaukee. A new pumping station will be built at that site with a 13-mile water supply pipeline carrying Lake Michigan water from there, through West Allis, Greenfield and New Berlin, to Waukesha.

A 23-mile return flow line will also be built from the Clean Water Plant in Waukesha to a new outfall facility in Franklin. The line will be built through New Berlin and Muskego.

Construction is expected to take place in phases with completion in 2023.

The start of construction is the latest step in a years-long journey for Waukesha to find a new water source. The city is under a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency order to get its drinking water into compliance for radium standards.

Waukesha went through a lengthy process to receive approval to get its water from Lake Michigan. The city is outside the Great Lakes basin and under the 2008 Great Lakes Compact, diversions of water outside the basin are prohibited.

There is an exception, however, for communities in counties that straddle the basin, which is the case for Waukesha. The city, however, needed approval from the governors of states bordering the Great Lakes, which it received in 2016.

As it was working through the approval process, Waukesha planned to source its water from the city of Oak Creek, but after receiving the go-ahead, the city switched to the city of Milwaukee in 2017. Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly cited the potential to save $40 million in construction costs and lower water rates as the reason for the switch.

“This shows that we can make southeast Wisconsin better if we can continue to find ways to work together,” Reilly said Monday.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He spent also five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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