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Chicago Aldermen Back 100-Year Deal To Supply Lake Michigan Drinking Water To Joliet

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Three weeks after Joliet chose Chicago over Hammond as its future source of drinking water, the Chicago City Council Finance Committee backed a 100-year deal with the southwest suburb.

In late January, the Joliet City Council approved a plan to build a 31-mile pipeline connecting to Chicago's drinking water supply from Lake Michigan, as well as upgrades to the Southwest Pumping Station next to Durkin Park in the Scottsdale neighborhood.

On Monday, the Chicago City Council Finance Committee approved a 100-year pact to supply Lake Michigan drinking water to Joliet, in a deal that will bring approximately $24 million to $37 million a year in new revenue to the city once Joliet completes construction of the pipeline and other infrastructure in 2030. Chicago Chief Financial Officer Jennie Huang Bennett said Joliet has the right to terminate and renegotiate terms of the agreement after 50 years.

Design of the Chicago-to-Joliet pipeline is expected to last from 2022 to 2024, with construction to begin in 2025, and water to begin flowing through the pipeline in 2030.

Joliet will pay the entire $600 million to $800 million cost of infrastructure needs for the project.

Bennett said the project likely will benefit Chicago residents in terms of water rates, by sharing the costs of maintaining the city's system with a larger pool of suburbs that get Lake Michigan water from the city.

The city's water purification plant is currently operating at about half capacity, and Bennett said the city would like to get more suburbs to tap into its drinking water system to help offset the costs of maintaining those plants.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) said, "It seems as though, if we could help cover some of the costs of maintaining these giant water purification plants by having another customer, it's just good business."

While the city of Chicago would determine Joliet's water rates depending on its own costs of supplying drinking water, Joliet would establish an advisory council that would meet quarterly and report recommendations to the Chicago City Council.

Officials have estimated the deal will increase the average Joliet resident's monthly water bill from $30.75 to between $90.75 and $100.75 per month.

Hammond was competing with Chicago to sell Joliet Lake Michigan water. According to published reports, the Hammond proposal would have required construction of a 48-mile pipeline and a filtration plant in Joliet. The Hammond proposal would have cost Joliet approximately $1.2 billion, but unlike the Chicago proposal, would allow Joliet to set its own rates to supply water to customers, as well as provide a source of jobs for Joliet residents at the water filtration plant.


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