A Joliet councilman wants the city to delay a vote next week that could commit to spending up to $1.7 billion until another option is considered in the plans for Lake Michigan water.
Councilman Pat Mudron said the city should hear a third option being proposed by the Southland Water Agency, which wants to partner with Joliet in bringing Lake Michigan water from Indiana into Illinois.
“There’s much at stake. I don’t want to rush into anything,’ Mudron said at the Tuesday meeting of the City Council.
No other council members commented on his suggestion, so it’s not clear whether Mudron has any support.
A special meeting is scheduled for Jan. 28 when the council is to make a decision between buying Lake Michigan water from the city of Chicago or building a Joliet pipeline to Hammond, Indiana, where the city would draw Lake Michigan water and pipe it to Joliet.
The council a year ago decided to explore the two options.
At that time, the city staff and consulting team working on the water project had ruled out the Southland Water Agency, which has yet to get access to Lake Michigan water, as not viable.
But the group, which is a government agency formed to bring Lake Michigan water to the south suburbs, has continued to try to get its proposal before the City Council. The city consulting team has not brought the proposal to the council saying there was not sufficient information.
James Prescott, a spokesman for Southland Water Agency, noted that the agency was recently put on a wait list for $701 million in potential EPA financing for water projects while Joliet was put on the same wait list for $440 million.
“So the Southland is a viable option,” Prescott said.
The agency contends that its proposal would reduce Joliet capital costs by $332 million, provide an access point on the Indiana shoreline 15 miles closer than Hammond, and eliminate the need for Joliet to maintain intake facilities in Indiana.
The proposal for a pipeline to Hammond, Indiana, would cost the city between $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion depending on whether a Joliet-only system is built or a regional system with larger capacity, according to city estimates. Monthly water rates are estimated to increase to $93.15 by 2030 and $149 by 2040 to pay for the system.
The Chicago option is estimated to cost between $725 million and $993 million depending on its capacity. Monthly water rates would rise to $90 by 2030 and $143 by 2040, according to city estimates.