Friday, May 25, 2007

Great Lakes Problems and Wisconsin's Leadership Failures

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel takes a cautious editorial approach today on the possible ban of ocean-going freighters on the Great Lakes proposed by 90 environmental organizations to stem the spreading fatal fish virus.

The editorial closes with an appeal for action and leadership from Wisconsin's Congressional delegation, and that kick-in-the-pants is long overdue.

But let's also note that Wisconsin state officials are also doing their own share of foot-dragging when it comes to Wisconsin and Great Lakes watershed issues.

The state still has not ratified the amended Great Lakes Compact, essentially caving into political pressures from business interests in Waukesha County.

It has been six months since the state's legislative study committee charged with drafting Compact enabling legislation has held a meeting, and the leader of the anti-Compact forces, State Sen. Mary Lazich, thinks that no agreement is better than adopting a standard-based set of rules governing Great Lakes diversions.

Gov. Jim Doyle is the chairman of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, and needs to set in motion an alternative process to get a bill written and adopted.

And it wouldn't hurt to have his DNR show a little more transparency and assertiveness when it comes to water conservation.

Like getting tougher on developers who want to fill wetlands.

The DNR also had to be pressured to announce a public comment period as it reviews New Berlin's second application for a Great Lakes diversion. It shouldn't have waited weeks to do so, after keeping the public unaware that New Berlin had applied again for diversion permission.

There is a lack of urgency at every level of government when it comes to water and land preservation in Wisconsin.

The state used to be a national leader. Now it's just another laissez-faire jurisdiction, forgetting that it gave birth to Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson, and has a public that wants and expects leadership.

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