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Village Water History
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PLEASANT PRAIRIE'S WATER HISTORY
HOW PLEASANT PRAIRIE BECAME A CUSTOMER OF THE KENOSHA WATER UTILITY
Between 1930 and 1960, homes took water from private wells and a handful of small privately owned “well-based” water companies. Many of these small companies failed financially or were under orders from the DNR to remedy radium contamination found in their wells. In 1971, Pleasant Prairie created a water utility to serve those who had previously been served by the failed companies and wells.
The Utility also built two separate well, tower and water distribution systems. In addition, the Kenosha Water Utility extended water service to certain Pleasant Prairie homes that were near the Town’s border with the City. After unacceptable radium levels were discovered in Pleasant Prairie’s municipal wells during the early 1980s, Pleasant Prairie sought an alternative source for safe drinking water.
Turning directly to Lake Michigan was complicated by the newly created Great Lakes Compact requiring that water taken from Lake Michigan be returned to Lake Michigan, and further complicated because Pleasant Prairie had just incurred debt to build two new sewage plants that returned water to the Des Plaines River, not Lake Michigan.
In 1988, Pleasant Prairie, Somers, Bristol, Paris, the County and Kenosha (City) with the help of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (or SEWRPC) began an effort to identify the most efficient way to provide safe drinking water to a growing community. They created a Technical Advisory Committee.
In 1989, those participating were encouraged to plan for a regional based water utility that would serve all communities equally without regard City, Town or Village borders and that would be governed by an independent board. The main goal of the regional utility would be to operate as efficiently as possible to get the lowest cost water for all water users.
Pleasant Prairie, looking to move it’s residents off of radium contaminated wells and also seeking to accommodate much needed new economic development, began installing new infrastructure to accommodate the regional utility being planned for. As the planning process neared completion, the Technical Advisory Committee made the formal recommendation for a regional water utility.
At this final point in the study, the Kenosha Water Utility, however, announced that it would not support a regional utility. The Kenosha Water Utility instead would sell “contractual services” to the area communities, despite the fact that the SEWRPC Master Plan indicated that this would be the highest cost alternative.
Pleasant Prairie, having developed its water infrastructure based on the regional approach that used Kenosha’s lakeshore intake as the water source, was obligated to obtain water from the Kenosha Utility through a contractual agreement. The “contractual services” approach led to higher water rates for Pleasant Prairie. The creation of LakeView Corporate Park was newly underway at roughly the same time.
In 1999, Pacific Gas and Electric Company sought to build a gas fired power plant in the Village. The plant would require six to seven million gallons of water per day. The cost of water, however, was too high. The Village and PG&E began investigating the construction of a Village water treatment plant and disconnecting from the Kenosha Water Utility. The Village also considered proposals to buy water from Zion. At PG&Es request for a resolution, Pleasant Prairie and the Kenosha Water Utility began to negotiate a new contract in 2001.
As their largest customer and a notable revenue stream, the Village, in the 2001 contract, agreed to become a customer of the Kenosha Water Utility forever. In exchange, the Kenosha Utility agreed to provide the Village an unlimited supply of water and agreed to allow Pleasant Prairie to make substantial water system improvements for increased efficiency, mainly taking water at a single delivery point (the 7th Avenue location) in order to reduce costs.
The new agreement also obligated the Kenosha Utility to establish new and reduced wholesale rates for the Village which would be based on a rate study, or cost of service analysis, conducted after the related water system efficiencies were made. As part of the agreement, both parties recognized that there was a chance that PG&E would not build the gas fired power plant in the Village.
Ultimately, PG&E announced that it wouldn’t locate a gas fired plant in Pleasant Prairie, however, the terms of the agreement remain intact. In accordance with the agreement, the Village remains a customer of the Kenosha Water Utility indefinitely.
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