Lake Michigan Water Update

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Lake Michigan Water Project

Update: June 23, 2014

Last April, the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency (CLCJAWA) voted to re-open negotiations with the Village of Wauconda to become the supplier of Lake Michigan water for Wauconda and Volo. Work on two separate agreements continues in pursuit of the CLCJAWA membership goal.

First, the Villages of Volo and Wauconda are working to put the terms of our conceptual partnership into a formal legal document detailing how the cost of the approximately $25 million transmission main will be shared by the communities. This transmission main is referred to as the “external” project since it will primarily take place outside the corporate limits of either Volo or Wauconda and will be owned by CLCJAWA.

Second, an admissions agreement between Volo/Wauconda and CLCJAWA is being drafted which will put the terms of membership and financial obligations into place. The agreements as a whole and especially the financial components require that each party complete their due diligence with the public finance and legal professionals. The agreements are progressing and it is anticipated that consideration of the documents by the respective boards will occur yet this summer.

The Village of Wauconda is also working on improvements to our “internal” water distribution system in preparation for receiving Lake Michigan water. These internal improvements will facilitate the proper storage and distribution of Lake Michigan water within the Village of Wauconda owned system. The Village Board just awarded a $4.7 million contract to Berger Excavating of Wauconda to initiate Phase I of these improvements. Phase II of the internal improvements will likely be initiated in 2015 followed by the third and final phase in 2016.

Assuming that the agreements with our partners and the considerable right-of-way acquisition and construction activity required will progress in a timely fashion, project schedules currently identify 2018 as the potential cutover date when our community could begin receiving Lake Michigan water. There is, however, substantial work to be completed and this projected cutover date will be fine-tuned as we move forward.

 

Update: April 24, 2014

On Wednesday, April 23rd, the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency (CLCJAWA) board voted to restart membership negotiations with the Village of Wauconda. “We’re looking to be a good member moving forward,” Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner said after Wednesday’s vote.

 

Update: March 10, 2014

Since the last update on the Village’s pursuit of Lake Michigan water which was published in early February, staff has been busy in a couple of areas.

First, the Village Engineer is nearly complete with the preparation of the plans, specifications and bidding documents on the infrastructure upgrades for the internal water system (within Wauconda Village limits) to accommodate receiving and distributing Lake Michigan water. We anticipate that the internal improvements will be ready to bid in April or when the water supplier has been identified. The completion of these plans allows the Village to identify areas where easements are needed and to fine-tune our cost estimates for project planning.

Second, as reported last month with respect to the water supplier, Village Officials have identified CLCJAWA (Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency) as the preferred method of obtaining Lake Michigan water for Wauconda. In pursuit of obtaining this objective, the Village’s project team led by Village Administrator Maxeiner continues to work with our financial consultants to identify the most cost effective way of bringing Lake Michigan Water to the Village. Once the financial strategies have been developed, staff will be sitting down with Volo officials to attempt to negotiate a partnership on which we can jointly apply to CLCJAWA to bring Lake Michigan water to our communities.

 

Update: Feb. 11, 2014

Since the last update on the Village’s pursuit of Lake Michigan water was published last September, there has been progress in a couple of areas.

First, the Village Engineer is in the midst of preparing the specifications on the infrastructure upgrades for the internal water system (within Wauconda Village limits) to accommodate receiving and distributing Lake Michigan water. The internal improvements will be funded primarily through bonds issued in early 2013. The preparation of these plans allows the Village to identify areas where easements are needed, fine-tune our cost estimates for project planning, and enables the Village to be ready to bid the project once the water supplier is identified.

Second, with respect to the water supplier, Village Officials have identified CLCJAWA (Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency) as the preferred method of obtaining Lake Michigan water for Wauconda and staff is recommending exhausting all efforts in pursuit of this option. Wauconda’s negotiating team led by Village Administrator Maxeiner has met with Volo officials on numerous occasions to discuss opportunities for a partnership between the two communities. Following the September 2013 meeting of CLCJAWA in which the Village of Wauconda was initially rejected as a potential member of the Agency, the Village of Volo began identifying and exploring the availability of other options to get Lake Michigan water. Volo worked with CLCJAWA to commission a study of the options available to bring Lake Michigan water to Volo through Round Lake’s utility system. The report on this study has only recently been publicly released and we have not yet evaluated the findings. However, over the next couple of weeks, staff will be reviewing and evaluating our options and will be meeting with Volo again to discuss our opportunities to work together on this project.

 

Archived Updates

Update: Sept. 26th, 2013

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Wauconda will continue to move forward in our pursuit of Lake Michigan water. We have been unable to come to terms with one of our water supplier options and will move forward without that option. Our initial estimates have shown that there are other potentially more cost-effective options.

What Happened? At the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency (CLCJAWA) Special Board meeting Wednesday night, our Lake Michigan Water Planning Team presented our issues and recommendations on how to move the process forward. The intent was to ask for open direct communication in order to move the process forward. We also wanted to communicate our willingness to participate in the route study with Volo so we do not delay their planning efforts. All of our Board of Trustees attended the meeting in support of extending this water supplier option. During the meeting one of the CLCJAWA Board members suggested extending the deadline to join by 30 days and it was rejected. As a result CLCJAWA decided to reject Wauconda as a potential member 8 to 1. This was very unfortunate and disappointing given that we have tried repeatedly to communicate and resolve these issues prior to this meeting.

CLCJAWA has twice given Wauconda ultimatums to commit to the group as our water supplier in order to foreclose all our other options before we have received the necessary agreements to review. Our Board of Trustees has twice concurred unanimously not to commit to this supplier because there were too many unknown details and it amounted to having to commit before the necessary agreements were made. We want to be clear – this was NOT solely about Recapture. That was 1 item of many in the 5 contracts under the Resolution Agreement that needed discussion. We have tried numerous times to address and resolve these open issues with CLCJAWA. We stand firm and refuse to enter into an agreement that puts Wauconda in a vulnerable financial situation that would span future generations.

What does this mean? We will still bring Lake Michigan water to Wauconda. CLCJAWA was 1 of the options, not the only option. Earlier on Wednesday, our Lake Michigan Water Planning Team also met with representatives from the Northwest Water Commission (NWC), another well-established Lake Michigan water supplier. Our planning team has agreed to move forward in our negotiations as potential partners. This option has been a part of our planning process from the beginning. We have revitalized this option over the last few months in order to ensure we find the most cost effective, long-term option to bring Lake Michigan water to Wauconda. As we reported previously to your Board of Trustees, the NWC water rate is the lowest available rate; significantly lower than the CLCJAWA’s water rate. This will translate into savings and stability for our residents.

We thank the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency and its Board of Directors for their efforts to attempt to form a mutually beneficial partnership for bringing Lake Michigan water to Wauconda. We are disappointed that CLCJAWA’s schedule had accelerated by information disclosed to us for the first time on Wednesday evening – that Volo’s water wells were taking on sand and that Volo needed to move quickly to Lake Michigan water. We are pleased that Volo apparently has an immediate water option, but we could not sacrifice the potential benefits of the study of the NWC for the pressing needs of Volo.

We will continue to steadfastly work in the best interests of our Wauconda residents in order to bring Lake Michigan water to Wauconda.

Thank you,

The Lake Michigan Water Planning Team

(Click here to view the September 25, 2013 CLCJAWA Presentation)

 

Update: Sept. 14th, 2013

In November 2012, the residents of Wauconda approved a referendum to bring Lake Michigan water to the community. Since that time, a great deal of effort has gone into identifying the best water supplier for the project. The Village Board has been actively involved in providing direction to our Planning Team composed of Mayor Bart, Trustee Barbini, Village Attorney Rudy Magna, Village Engineer Bill Rickert, and Interim Village Administrator/Director of Public Works Brad Fink.update-icon

The Planning Team has made regular reports to the Village Board on the progress made in identifying a supplier that can best serve Wauconda’s long term water needs at the most reasonable long term cost. The Team is currently reviewing evaluation criteria for two potential suppliers: Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency (CLCJAWA) and the North West Water Commission (NWWC). After identifying the specific evaluation criteria, the Team shared the most recent results with the Board of Trustees.

These criteria included a comparison of connection fees, Executive Board Membership, current and future water rates, construction and long term maintenance costs for the new main transmission line, and the ability to recover a portion of the Village’s construction costs should another community connect to our main transmission line. This future recovery of the Village’s initial investment in a transmission line is known as “recapture.”

Most recently the Village Board unanimously gave direction to the Planning Team to carry out the following:

  • Continue to negotiate an agreement with CLCJAWA that includes the ability to recapture our costs should another community obtain Lake Michigan water through the new main transmission line our residents paid to construct. The potential to institute a recapture in the future may help offset any increases in residential property taxes.
  • Develop a presentation to the CLCJAWA Board of Directors that focuses on topics such as:

- The final CLCJAWA Admissions Agreement and Membership Agreement, both of which have not been provided at this time.

- Wauconda’s role and shared cost for the main transmission line route study.

- An agreed upon timeline to finalize the Admissions Agreement, Membership Agreement and the transmission line route study.

- Wauconda’s proposals for connection fees and recapture potential.

  • The Village Engineer shall submit a formal Phase I Engineering Service Agreement to plan the Village’s internal improvements necessary to bring Lake Michigan water from the junction of the main transmission line. This Phase I Plan is the first of three phases to be completed over the next three years. The total estimated cost of all three phases is $11.2 million. Internal improvements to our water system will standardize our aging water mains, a step that is necessary regardless of the determined water supplier. The ultimate goal is to efficiently deliver Lake Michigan water to the community.

Moving forward, when the remaining information is available to complete the evaluation between CLCJAWA and NWWC, the Planning Team will once again share the results with the Village Board to help identify the supplier that can best serve Wauconda’s long term water needs at the most reasonable long term cost.

The Mayor and Village Board are committed to keeping residents updated on their progress as we diligently prepare to bring Lake Michigan water to Wauconda. Please watch our website and e-News for future developments.

(Click here to view the complete September 10th Lake Michigan Water Presentation.)

Update: Aug. 13th, 2013

The Village Board and staff are working hard to finalize its choice for the most cost effective supplier of Lake Michigan Water to our community. On Tuesday, August 13th, the Project Planning Team presented an update at the Committee of the Whole Meeting. The team consists of Mayor Frank Bart, Trustee John F. Barbini, Director Brad Fink, Village Attorney Rudy Magna, and Village Engineer Bill Rickert.

The purpose of the presentation was threefold:
  • Show the Magnitude and Scope of the Process to Bring Lake Michigan Water to the Village of Wauconda
  • Show Where We Are Now in This Process
  • Share Our Next Step in This Process

(Click here to view the entire presentation).

A Short History

What did it take to get access to Lake Michigan Water?

Since the inception of the public water system over 75 years ago, underground water has been pumped from local wells and delivered for use to Wauconda residents and businesses. In 2008, Village officials became concerned about the diminishing water supply in local aquifers and the possibility of ground water contamination, and began work to investigate alternate water sources. One of the alternatives considered was Lake Michigan water, and a request was submitted to the proper authorities for consideration to grant an allocation of the lake water. The request was approved in 2011 and on November 6, 2012, Wauconda residents voted in favor of making Lake Michigan water the community’s primary source of drinking water, switching away from the current ground water wells. With the voter passage of this referendum, the Village began work immediately to make Lake Michigan water its primary source of drinking water (the current well system will remain in place to act as an emergency back-up system).

Informational Q&As

Where does Village water come from right now?

The Village gets its water from the aquifers accessed by four shallow wells (wells less than 500 feet deep) and four deep wells (more than 1,000 feet deep) located throughout the Village. The raw water that comes from the deep wells contains several naturally occurring elements including radium and barium. Water from the Village’s deep wells is currently being treated to meet the EPA’s required thresholds for radium and barium levels.

Is something wrong with the existing groundwater supply?

No, nothing is wrong with the drinking water that the Village currently provides. The Lake Michigan Water referendum addressed concerns for the future water supplies for our community.

Why was Lake Michigan water a good choice for Village residents?

The Village considered adding additional wells to its existing system, but Lake Michigan water is less susceptible to both over-mining and contamination. Lake water is also naturally softer than groundwater, so use of in-home water softeners will likely be unnecessary.

What will happen if something pollutes the water in Lake Michigan or if there is a problem with the pipeline from the lake?

Wauconda’s groundwater wells will still be maintained as an emergency water supply should an interruption to the Lake Michigan water supply occur. This redundancy is one of the greatest benefits of the Lake Michigan Water project. Having two completely different sources of water, one of our most vital resources, provides the safest, most reliable system.

How does this affect unincorporated Wauconda residents currently receiving municipal water?

Currently, approximately 400 of Wauconda’s water customers live outside Village limits. Because they do not contribute to the water system through property tax, these customers pay 25% more to receive municipal water. This surcharge will be adjusted further to help offset the expense of LMW.

Feasibility Study

Background Information

In 2011, civil engineering firm Baxter & Woodman, Inc. produced a report detailing the Village of Wauconda’s existing groundwater resources, demand, and future prognosis. Feasibility studies prepared at that time showed that the aquifers in the local area have limited capacity and are susceptible to impurities and contaminants. Increasing demand for water has resulted in recent over-pumping of several aquifers creating low water levels and poor water quality. Click below to review the report.

 

Click here to download pdf.