By Mrinal Gokhale
Mayor Tom Barrett stands across from Great Lakes Common Council representatives at Carrol University’s Shattuck Music Center.
Hundreds of attendees filled the seats, listening to Barrett and many others who spoke on the application to allow Waukesha to source water from Lake Michigan.
The purpose of the application is for Waukesha to borrow Lake Michigan water using the Oak Creek Water Utility and return it back using Root River to fix contamination problems encountered with Waukesha’s current water.
The four extra projected service areas as a part of the proposal include parts of Waukesha, Genesee, Pewaukee and Delafield.
“The City of Milwaukee was the original suitor in the discussion in the sale of water because we made the most sense.
Economic sustainability and economic growth should go hand in hand,” he began.
“There’s a difference between state and federal law and I feel federal law will trump state law.”
He added that he believes Waukesha should get its water from the City of Milwaukee as the most economical option, saying Milwaukee currently sells New Berlin water under the terms of the compact. Mayor Barrett was just one of hundreds to voice their opinions on this proposal. There were many who supported the proposal as well as many who opposed it. The hearing went on from 4:30 in the afternoon for many hours.
Those who do not support the proposal felt it was unnecessary to add the larger service area and it would be more expensive in the long run.
They argued water costs would more than double and that asking for the Great Lakes water supply is unnecessary.
State Representative Cory Mason from Racine attended the hearing and also opposes sourcing from Lake Michigan.
He says he finds it suspicious that the proposal states using Great Lakes water is the only way to fix contamination.
“I want council to reject the proposal,” said Mason. “It’s not absolutely required. If you use 6.5 million gallons a day, you would be saying we can use as much or less than we are now, but the proposal is asking for double.”
Supporters of the application said they feel it is the most economical option. Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly was one of the supporters.
“The purpose of compact is to make decisions based on science, not politics.
Other than New Berlin in 2009, no other city has applied for Great Lakes water since the compact was inactive,” said Reilly.
He said Waukesha’s water is contaminated and implementing this application is the best solution.
Senator Ron Johnson was another who supports the application and also gave a statement.
“It’ll result in clean water being sent back to Lake Michigan. Ecological integrity and volume won’t be harmed,” he said.
He compared this situation to the Flint water crisis, saying alternative options should always be considered and there is no other alternative than using Lake Michigan.
“Currently, Flint residents experience what happens when officials don’t vet alternative sources for water. It is clear Waukesha has considered their alternatives and this plan is the safest, most cost affordable option with no political motive.”
Some other speakers during the five hour hearing were Attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin of Midwest Advocates, Cheryl Nenn of Milwaukee Riverkeeper, County Supervisor Larry Nelson and hundreds more.
Waukesha is court-ordered to implement a solution for their contaminated water by 2018.
Waukeshadiversion.org details the entire application and is accepting comments and opinions on the matter until March 14. The regional body will hold another meeting on April 21 and plans to make a decision afterward.