Joliet region’s Lake Michigan water project reaches milestone

On track to deliver water by May 2030, utilities director says

Lake Michigan and the Chicago Department of Water Management can be seen on an enlarged map Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, during a public forum on the future source of Joliet's water at Cantigny Post 367 VFW in Joliet, Ill.

The regional Lake Michigan water project has reached a new phase as the communities involved in the endeavor assign members to the Grand Prairie Water Commission.

The commission was authorized by state law in August 2022 and has a website loaded with information about the project. But an acting board to oversee management of the project could not be established until all six members received state approval for Lake Michigan water allocations.

That approval has come, Joliet Utilities Director Allison Swisher told City Council members this week as the city approved its membership in the commission.

“We are on track,” Swisher told the council Tuesday before it voted. “Many people have questioned whether this program will actually happen. But we are well on our way to accomplishing that.”

Crest Hill and Channahon also were to vote this week to officially become members of the commission, Swisher said. The other three municipalities in the Lake Michigan Water project – Romeoville, Shorewood and Minooka – are voting in the next two weeks.

The city of Joliet, which initiated the project and approved the plan for Lake Michigan water from Chicago in January 2021, has been managing the project until the regional commission is established.

Swisher said the project is on track to deliver Lake Michigan water from Chicago in May 2030.

“This is a big milestone here,” council member Joe Clement said as he joined other council members in the 9-0 vote to make Joliet part of the commission.

Mayor Terry D’Arcy will represent Joliet on the commission with council member Cesar Guerrero serving as the alternate commissioner.

Construction worker work along Oakview Avenue placing new water pipes in Joliet. Thursday, August 4, 2022 in Joliet.

The project has involved planning, engineering and land acquisition as a pipeline route has been mapped from Chicago to the six communities in the Grand Prairie Water Commission.

Construction will start on the Chicago end of the pipeline, Swisher said.

“In this area, you’re really not going to see construction until 2026,” she said.

Hugh O’Hara, executive director of the Will County Governmental League, spoke to the council on the importance of establishing the commission and said the project will get more notice from the public when construction starts.

“I think it’s going to be pretty hard to miss when 66-inch pipes start going in the ground,” O’Hara said.