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posted: 9/21/2012 4:50 PM

Antioch drops out of Lake Michigan water planning group

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Another community plans to drop out of a consortium studying how best to get Lake Michigan water as the future of the group is in flux.

Antioch officials this past week decided to leave the North and West Lake County Lake Michigan Working Group, as the membership dwindles in light of other options.

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"It just seems like little by little, towns are going in different directions," said Antioch Mayor Larry Hanson. "My board is finally getting to the point we see this thing falling apart and they don't want to invest any more into it."

About two weeks ago, Lindenhurst officials decided their best option was to pursue membership in the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency, which was formed about 20 years ago to bring Lake Michigan water to 10 entities.

That option was not available when the North and West group originally formed with nine members. Communities that had applied for and received allocations for Lake Michigan water from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources were Lindenhurst, Antioch, Fox Lake, Lake Villa, Volo, Wauconda, Lake County, Lake Zurich and Long Grove.

An early estimate pegged the cost of bringing water to all the members at about $252 million.

Since then, CLC JAWA studied several factors, such as projected land uses and population, and revised its estimates of how much water existing members would need by 2040 compared with the amount allowed by the state.

"There still is projected water available," said executive director Darrell Blenniss Jr. "We thought there was an existing cushion."

With that, CLC JAWA decided it could accommodate six entities that had been part of the original consortium: Lindenhurst, Lake Villa and two county-operated systems in the north and Wauconda and Volo to the west.

"We decided we could take on both groups," Blenniss said. Existing members would need to approve any newcomers. "We're looking forward to working with those communities. We're still in discussion with all of them," he added.

So far, Lindenhurst is the only one that has started the process to join CLC JAWA but others are expected. Wauconda voters will be asked Nov. 6 whether they want the village to borrow $41 million in preparation for receiving Lake Michigan water.

Lake Zurich and Long Grove dropped out earlier. Antioch and Fox Lake have not been offered a conceptual service proposal for water from CLC JAWA and will examine their options.

"With the other communities going to CLC JAWA we have to make some other choices," said Fox Lake Village Administrator Nancy Schuerr. The village board is expected to receive more information at its meeting Tuesday.

Hanson said it made sense to join the consortium as a means to collect information and plan ahead.

"Nobody has the magic time frame as far as what's going to happen with the (village) wells," he said. "It's one of those unknown factors -- when is that day going to come? It's not an emergency situation for the village."

All seven members have agreements with the North and West group through the end of the year. Antioch has invested about $90,000 to date and will seek a refund of about $19,000.

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