I am appreciating Journal Sentinel reporter Don Behm's continuing coverage of agreements that the cities of Oak Creek and Waukesha signed on Tuesday to bring Lake Michigan water to Waukesha.
Behm reported the next day that there is a separate water agreement already in place between seller Oak Creek and wholesale customers Franklin and Caledonia; the state Public Service Commission had been looking at an issue related to that agreement since last year, and Wednesday issued an order that slashed the amount of money Oak Creek could recover when serving those municipalities.
Behm reported Wednesday that Oak Creek was now balking at signing its letter of intent to sell the Lake Michigan water to Waukesha, fearing they'd face in that deal same shortfall of cost recovery their deal with Franklin was producing at the hands of the PSC - - so the Oak Creek- - Waukesha deal stalled in flight before barely getting off the ground.
Without a signed letter of intent from a selling community, Waukesha's application for diverted Lake Michigan water cannot be considered complete, thus cannot be fully reviewed by the Wisconsin DNR, let alone by the other seven Great Lakes states that must give unanimous approval before the $183 million Oak Creek-to-Waukesha pipeline construction could begin.
The Oak Creek-to-Waukesha deal could last from 40-80 years.
I'd wondered earlier today how Waukesha and Oak Creek could have held 18 months of water sale negotiations, and brought forward agreements to sign Tuesday at their respective Common Councils with the cost recovery case and a pending decision hanging over Oak Creek's head.
Turns out that at least Oak Creek saw it coming.
Behm said in an updated story Thursday evening that Oak Creek officials had anticipated this problem prior to the fanfare with which it and Waukesha signed documents about their intended sale:
The [Oak Creek] Water & Sewer Commission had given him [its general manager] authority last month to initiate a lawsuit against the PSC in the advent of an order deemed unfavorable to its resident ratepayers, he said.So it's clear that Oak Creek had a plan to deal with an unfavorable ruling - - it is further asking the PSC to review its order at a hearing - - but it's not clear if Waukesha knew, or was blind-sided.
One of those 'what-did-they-know-and-when-did-they-know-it questions.
Either way, Waukesha water users surely had no clue that the water sale deal they had been anticipating ever since the diversion application drafting began years ago could he headed for the shoals - - with a drop-dead supply deadline of June 30, 2018 - - if Oak Creek got side-tracked almost immediately as the seller.
Makes you wonder if Milwaukee is really out of the picture?