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Waukesha Rebrands Water Diversion; Prepares For Challenges Ahead

Racine Hopes March 20 Meeting Leads To Change

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

Waukesha’s effort to bring in drinking water from Lake Michigan is now called the Great Water Alliance. But rebranding aside, the diversion project faces another hurdle this month.

Waukesha has paid a marketing firm to name its plan to buy Lake Michigan water from Oak Creek, and by the year 2020, build two, 20-mile long underground pipes through Franklin, Muskego and New Berlin.

One pipe would carry clean water to Waukesha. The other, Waukesha’s treated wastewater back as far as Franklin, where the effluent would be released into the Root River, which empties into Lake Michigan at Racine.

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Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said the Great Water Alliance website and social media outreach will help answer questions about the diversion.

Reilly said the marketing isn’t aimed at affecting oral arguments scheduled for March 20 in Chicago, on a petition by Racine and other Great Lakes cities to appeal last year’s eight-state approval of diversion.

“I’m not worried about it. There is some concern there. But I fully believe the (Great Lakes) Compact Council is going to reaffirm its decision,” Reilly said Wednesday, after helping unveil the marketing effort to Waukesha community leaders.

Racine Mayor John Dickert said he holds Reilly in high regard. But Dickert said he’s looking forward to the March 20 meeting.

“We’re trying to get people to understand we should have conversations about this, and more importantly the discharge for Racine should something that’s actually discussed, which we don’t think it really was in the first Compact conversation,” Dickert said.

Dickert said he remains concerned the treated wastewater flowing through his city would not be clean enough, and that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources doesn’t plan sufficient testing.

Waukesha officials say they convinced the Great Lakes Compact Council (which represented the Great Lakes governors) that the treated wastewater would likely improve water quality in the Root River.

Waukesha’s water diversion would be the first time under the 2008 Great Lakes Compact that a community completely outside the Great Lakes Basin would get lake water.

Waukesha potentially qualifies for the water, because it’s in Waukesha County that straddles the Great Lakes Basin.

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