Residents, local readers express concerns about all three options through city

Waukesha Freeman
Feb 16, 2018
Hannah Weikel

New Berlin — Al Salentine says he couldn’t stand the thought of his New Berlin farm — in the family since the 1850s — getting dug up for a water pipeline, so he started making calls.

Salentine’s family farm sits on approximately 82 acres of land, shaped into a triangle by National Avenue, Calhoun Road and Beloit Road — all near where the Waukesha Water Utility plans to lay a pipeline that would carry Lake Michigan water from Milwaukee to Waukesha. In an earlier route plan, the utility had considered running the pipeline through Salentine’s farm, but he put up a fight and they have since decided the route would “skirt” around the land, he said.

Still, the area around Salentine’s farm may see none of the pipeline construction. Three routes are still being considered and a decision won’t be reached until later this year, utility officials say. Alternative routes have the pipeline running down Coffee Road or Observatory Road to eventually meet up with Racine Avenue and into Minooka Park, where a water reservoir and pumping station will be built.

At a public information meeting in New Berlin Thursday night, every resident and city official in attendance opposed a different route. Some said the pipeline should avoid Coffee Road and Beloit Road, which were just repaved in the last year or two. Others said National Avenue sees heavy traffic and any construction closures would muck up commutes to and from the city.

But ultimately, the water pipeline isn’t being built to help New Berlin, said District 2 Ald. Chuck Garrigues. It’s necessary for Waukesha and one of the routes will be picked eventually. Information meetings, like Thursday’s in New Berlin, allow the utility to gather feedback on the route options, but a decision will have to be made and there will be some who are unhappy about it, he said.

Garrigues came to Thursday’s meeting at New Berlin City Hall with Ald. John Hopkins, Ald. Keith Heun and Council President Kenneth Harenda. They pointed out a railroad route that cuts through New Berlin and takes a straight line to Waukesha.

“We are questioning why they aren’t using that railroad,” Heun said, adding that it looked as short as the three routes that use county and city roads. Dan Duchniak, Waukesha Water Utility general manager, said the railroad isn’t totally abandoned and the pipeline “can’t run parallel to a railroad.”

Still, he agreed to look into it and said he appreciates the feedback. Harenda said even though the railroad has pulled tracks at road crossings in some places, it has the right to start using it at any time.

Waukesha’s return pipeline — carrying the city’s treated wastewater to the Root River in Franklin — will also go through New Berlin, but that route has already been selected, Duchniak said. A team of researchers and engineers are running tests on the land along the return flow route, and any environmental or other issues could trigger some minor changes in that path, he said.

More public meetings will be held as plans progress, but none have been scheduled yet.

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