In the early 1980's, the City of Wausau and six other communities in the Wausau Urban Area cooperated in the preparation of a sewer service area plan. The plan, entitled Wausau Urban Area Sewer Service Plan for the Year 2000, was prepared by the Marathon County Planning Department and completed in October, 1981. Preparation of this plan was mandated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as one component of the Upper Wisconsin River Water Quality Plan and as a requirement for receiving wastewater treatment facilities grants and administrative approval of sewer extensions. The DNR’s involvement in this planning effort is promulgated in State Administrative Rules and in the Federal Clean Water Act.

The primary purpose of the plan was to establish a sewer service boundary for the Wausau Urban Area. This boundary sets the 20-year maximum limit for the extension of sanitary sewer services in a cost effective, environmentally sound manner. Quite simply, property located within the sewer service boundary line is eligible to receive sanitary sewer service during the 20-year planning period; any property lying outside this sewer service area boundary would not be eligible to receive this utility service unless the boundary were amended. Thus, the sewer service boundary also functions as a community growth boundary for Wausau since all development in the City must have sanitary sewer service.

As a result of City growth and an escalating demand for extending sewer service, the 1981 plan was amended in December, 1992 when the Wausau Common Council adopted a document entitled, Major Amendment to the Wausau Sewer Service Area Boundary. This report represented a comprehensive update of the analyses and projections contained in the initial plan and extended the sewer service boundary for the City of Wausau farther into the adjacent hinterland to encompass a new, expanded area that was likely to be sewered by the year 2010. Thus, the City’s anticipated growth boundary was further extended into the adjacent rural communities.

The plan update was prepared in accordance with the planning guidelines established by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. These guidelines allowed the City to increase the land area within its sewer service boundary in proportion to its projected population increase. Thus, based upon the population projections developed for the plan update, the City was allowed to expand its earlier sewer service boundary by approximately 3,000 acres. In consultation with the Sewerage and Water Utility, the Capital Improvements and Street Maintenance Committee, Public Works Department and other City staff, a preliminary growth boundary for the City was established. The results of the preliminary planning effort were then presented at public informational meetings and at a public hearing and were distributed widely via press releases and letters to the governing bodies of the other communities within the Wausau Urban Area. After a several month public review and revision process, the final plan was presented to the City Plan Commission and Common Council for adoption. Following Common Council action, the plan was transmitted to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for final approval, which was received in June, 1993. [Year 2010 Sewer Service Area Boundary Map]

Between 1993 and the end of 2001, four amendments to the Sewer Service Area Boundary were prepared by the City and approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Each of these amendments added and removed territory from the adopted Sewer Service Area Boundary to reflect changes in the likely direction of the community's growth. Amendments to the Sewer Service Area Boundary involve a lengthy process that requires publication of notices, holding a public hearing by the City Plan Commission, approval by the Wausau Common Council, and submission of a substantial amount of information to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for further review and ultimate approval. This entire process generally spans a period of six months. The final result of these four amendments did not increase the total acreage within the Sewer Service Area Boundary, since the City is required to remove an area equal in size to the area added.

The DNR also requires that all City of Wausau engineering plans for extending sanitary sewers be approved by that agency. Before the Department of Natural Resources will review these engineering plans, however, the territory which these sewers will serve must be located within the City’s sewer service or growth boundary. If the territory is not within this growth boundary, the DNR will not approve the engineering plans and, hence, the City will not be allowed to extend sanitary sewers into that territory. In addition to the population growth criteria mentioned above, the DNR does not allow sewer extensions into wetland areas, floodplain areas, or certain other environmentally sensitive areas unless there are no other cost effective alternatives for locating the sewers and the DNR is assured that there will not be any development within the environmentally sensitive areas served by the sewer extensions. Thus, through the sewer service planning process, environmentally sensitive areas are protected and utilities are extended in a planned, cost effective manner.