To no one's surprise, two legislative committees in Madison passed the industry-crafted, GOP-managed iron mining bill Wednesday.
The Journal Sentinel explains that the bill will allow iron mine operators to fill some bodies water with waste rock:
Republicans also adjusted the bill to limit the ability of mining companies to fill waterways, though Democrats said tougher protections were needed. A 2-acre pond could still be filled with rock, they said.Hey, what's two acres? What's a little fill here and there?
Readers, and legislators might want to take a look at what the Wisconsin Supreme Court has said about such practices, especially since the waste rock produced by the proposed iron mine in Northern Wisconsin will create waste rock by the hundreds of millions of cubic yards.
And the rock contains sulfide minerals that can produce toxic sulphuric acid runoff.
At the headwaters of the Bad River Band...which empties into Lake Superior...and upstream from where the Bad River Band gets its drinking water and has grown wild rice for centuries.
The Court understands that all our waters are finite and connected.
And when the Department of Natural Resources explains Wisconsin water law and the State Constitution's "Public Trust Doctrine" water rights section on the DNR website it calls attention to what the Court had said in a case about why its a bad idea to fill even a relatively small body of water.
Says the DNR - - and note the third graph in this excerpt:
Wisconsin's Public Trust Doctrine requires the state to intervene to protect public rights in the commercial or recreational use of navigable waters. The DNR, as the state agent charged with this responsibility, can do so through permitting requirements for water projects, through court action to stop nuisances in navigable waters, and through statutes authorizing local zoning ordinances that limit development along navigable waterways.
The court has ruled that DNR staff, when they review projects that could impact Wisconsin lakes and rivers, must consider the cumulative impacts of individual projects in their decisions.
"A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist. Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC.(2)
Sources: (1) Quick, John. 1994. The Public Trust Doctrine in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1.
(2) "Champions of the Public Trust, A History of Water Use in Wisconsin" study guide. 1995. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Water Regulation and Zoning. Champions of the Public Trust [PDF].