Joliet water project: It’s ‘iconic’

Lake Michigan project stands out, engineering consultant says

How big is the project to bring Lake Michigan water to Joliet and surrounding communities?

“This is probably one of the most iconic water projects going on around the United States. Just being able to participate is a big deal.”

That was the perspective of Patrick Clifford, regional global practice manager for Burns & McDonnell, the engineering firm that wants to participate in the project. Clifford made the statement while presenting the company’s credentials to the City Council Public Service Committee on April 18.

Those credentials include 60 offices worldwide, so Burns & McDonnell has some perspective on water projects around the U.S.

The City Council on Tuesday will vote on two contracts with Burns & McDonnell.

A $650,000 contract would make Burns & McDonnell the independent review consultant that would watch over the project as contracts are awarded for a pipeline, pumping station and other infrastructure to bring Lake Michigan water to Joliet and surrounding communities. Romeoville, Crest Hill, Shorewood, Channahon and Minooka also are part of the regional commission that is building what is apparently one of the biggest water projects in the nation today.

The second contract for $139,000 would hire Burns & McDonnell for a rate study that would recommend what Joliet residents should pay for water in coming years.

Much of what Joliet resident pay will be for the Lake Michigan project.

As iconic as the water project may be, council members have commented that what people care most about is what it will cost them.

So far, the estimate has been that Joliet monthly water rates will triple to $88 by 2030.

That’s a big increase. But water rates already were expected to rise in Joliet and elsewhere. The Lake Michigan project is not the sole factor.

Officials in other communities, including Crest Hill and Romeoville, have said that one big reason for joining the commission is that Lake Michigan water appeared to be the least-expensive option.

Other options include continuing to rely on aquifers that are drying up and could be subject to new federal regulations in the future or turning to nearby rivers for water that would require expensive treatment.

Water is becoming more precious than it was in the past.

Most people still take water for granted, which is why the Lake Michigan water project really has not captured much public attention.

The city is trying to encourage people to take a new perspective.

Joliet is participating in the Wyland National Mayors’ Challenge for Water Conservation.

Anyone who wants to do so has until Saturday and can find details on the city’s water project website, rethinkwaterjoliet.org.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News