2009-08-19 / Front Page

Lapeer officials back new regional water system


LAPEER — The Lapeer City Commission agreed Monday evening to move forward with preliminary plans for the City of Lapeer to become an active member of a proposed regional water pipeline project to pump water from Lake Huron through Sanilac, Lapeer and Genesee counties.

The ambitious project that has been estimated to cost more than $600 million and take five years to complete was spearheaded by Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright to end 40 years of dependency on the Detroit Water and Sewer Dept.

Several Genesee County officials attended the meeting, but had little to say in what was a brief discussion before the Lapeer commission unanimously agreed to support a resolution authorizing City Manager Dale Kerbyson to represent the city’s interests to negotiate an agreement to establish a regional water system authority.

Commissioner Mike Robinet asked Kerbyson whether there is a financial commitment by the city to the proposed project by passing a resolution of support for the formation of the Karegnondi Water Authority, named for the Petan Indian word for “lake.”

“No, not at this time,” Kerbyson responded.

Commissioner A. Wayne Bennett followed by asking, “At what point might there by a cost to the city and how much?”

The Genesee contingent said they hope the new water authority member communities would meet within 180 days to determine the next course of action. At that time some hard cost numbers will be available to share with officials.

The project would pump up to 85 million gallons of water from Lake Huron from a 230-acre site on the Sanilac-St. Clair County line through 65 miles of new pipeline.

The current plan to provide an alternative to Detroit water is the third since 1992. The Genesee County Drain Commission already has applied to the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality for a water withdrawal permit, a move that has sparked criticism from Cheboygan County in northern Michigan and the city of Sarnia, Ontario, which both claim Genesee County is trying to divert water.

Drain Commissioner Wright told the County Press in an earlier interview that while building a regional water system would likely increase local water bills, it wouldn’t be as much as future rate increases expected from the Detroit system.

Genesee officials project that Lapeer County’s cost share of the project would be more than $100 million, including the cost of building a new water treatment plant in the county.

— Staff writer Phil Foley contributed to this report.

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