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Wausau gives go-ahead to water pipeline


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) – Six water-strapped communities along Highway 29 could begin tapping into Wausau's water supply under a move city leaders took Tuesday.

Wausau's Water Works Commission approved a notice of intent to sell water to the cities of Abbotsford, Colby and Marshfield and the villages of Edgar, Marathon City and Spencer. The water would be supplied via a yet-to-be constructed pipeline on Highway 29.

The decision gives the green light for leaders to begin drafting a contract that must eventually be approved by local officials and the state Public Service Commission.

“If we want to live in that area, we've got to have more water,” said Abbotsford public works administrator Bill Beil. “We have good water, just not enough.”

Tuesday's decision is especially important for Abbotsford, which is under a DNR deadline to find a new water supply before April. The city has implemented a ban on outdoor water use to conserve its existing supply. The ban, which will remain in place until the city finds new water, prevents residents from washing their cars or watering their lawns.

A capacity study has found that Wausau has enough water to share with others.

“If we put our blinders on and say we only care about ourselves, that's pretty short-sighted,” said Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple, who publicly supports the project as a way of growing the regional economy.

Communities must begin finding funding sources to pay for the estimated $25 to $35 million pipeline. Officials have looked to the federal economic stimulus package as one possible source of funding.