Monday, April 20, 2009

DNR Should Celebrate Earth Day by Writing Water Diversion Rules

Wednesday is the 39th Earth Day - - an international event begun by former US Senator Gaylord Nelson - - and there will be events and speeches galore across the state.

Which is appropriate - - as is the schedule of Earth Day activities to be undertaken by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

What better day could there be for the DNR to announce that it will write administrative rules to govern diversions from the Great Lakes to Wisconsin communities - - a process called for in the eight-state, regional Great Lakes Compact of 2008 - - to make sure there are understandable procedures, required conservation planning and other regulations in place before the DNR approves any diversions?

The DNR, with New Berlin's application at the agency, and Waukesha's in preparation, has said it believes it has the authority to review and approve these applications prior to the writing of its rules.

Of course, the DNR knows better.

It knows that putting rules in place after decisions are implemented is backwards, and, in fact has said when it comes to controlling invasive species in the Great Lakes, it very much wants to get rules in place now, without waiting for more damage to occur.

The DNR's crucial role in Wisconsin's economy and quality of life revolves around stewardship of natural resources.

And the Great Lakes Compact is at the center of relations among the eight Great Lakes states, and with the two Canadian provinces that also border these international bodies of fresh water - - the largest on the planet.

If the DNR really wants to celebrate Earth Day, it should announce it takes seriously its responsibilities under the Compact and Wisconsin law, and will create the necessary legal structure to guarantee that science and public input will trump politics and expediency when it comes to scrutinizing applications to move water out of the Great Lakes basin.

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