The Public Record: Waukesha’s expensive water odyssey

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:20 pm

The city of Waukesha’s journey to find a new source of water has been a long and, at times, contentious one. Having received approval from the Great Lakes Compact Council to divert Lake Michigan water, the city is now choosing a supplier and constructing a $200 million pipeline to get water to Waukesha and return it to the Root River.

Waukesha will soon be paying millions of dollars per year to buy water from either Milwaukee or Oak Creek, but even before putting a shovel in the ground, the costs are already adding up for the city and its ratepayers. Dan Duchniak, Waukesha Water Utility general manager, said costs are on budget for the application process and he felt the city “did a good job with our expenses.”

“That being said, we must remember that this is to address a public health issue and the penalties could have been as high as $10,000 per well per day that we were out of compliance,” he said.

$6.3 million: Waukesha’s total cash cost through the entire application process. The state Public Service Commission allowed Waukesha to recover roughly $2.9 million from ratepayers on a regulatory accounting basis in pre-construction and planning costs in a 2012 decision. In a current water rate case, the PSC would allow the recovery of another $2.6 million in expenses from 2013 through June 21, 2016.

$505,099: The city’s lobbying expenses for the project. The PSC would not allow Waukesha to recover $62,271 from ratepayers for spending deemed to be lobbying in the 2012 case. In the current case, the PSC agreed to disallow $442,828 at the suggestion of the city after initially declaring a higher amount constituted lobbying.

$435,090: Purchase price of parcel the city bought to keep its ground water options open in the event the diversion was not approved.

$175,279: Payments to date for the planned outfall site at South 60th Street and West Oakwood Road in Franklin.

11: Trips Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly, Duchniak and other city officials made in the spring of 2016 to make the city’s case to other Great Lakes states. Those trips included four visits to Minnesota, three trips to Chicago and a three-day swing through Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Total spending for the public outreach efforts totaled $9,197, including:

  • $7,507.39 for lodging and travel
  • $717.99 for meals
  • $711.71 for parking, ground transportation and mileage

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent 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.