Saturday, December 19, 2009

Urgency On Highways, Not The Environment - - Even Lake Michigan

I can't help noticing the contradiction in the way the Doyle administration has responded to two situations in Southeastern Wisconsin with profound statewide implication - - the need for repairs to Zoo Interchange bridges and the need to prevent an invasion of Asian carp into Lake Michigan.

With three bridges in need of repairs, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation rushed $22 million into a fast-track contract with only one bidder.

Reminded me of the way the first $97 million in federal stimulus funding got routed in the blink of an eye to the I-94 north/south project.

While I am not sure if conditions in the Zoo Interchange really justified quick repairs, I'll concede the argument, as the interchange is the most heavily-trafficked in the state.

But when it comes to pitching in legally or financially either independently, or in concert with Illinois, or Michigan to find a solution to the advancing, predatory carp, the state has been nowhere.

Let's be clear: Wisconsin has a multi-billion dollar interest in keeping the carp out of Lake Michigan.

No one is going to want to go out on the lake - - commercial fishing operator, recreational angler, Sunday boater or paddler - - if a 75-pound flying fish is going to smack them in the face.

Michigan officials acted first.

Then Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said some legal action might be on the way.

But the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has been nowhere. Maybe a peep here and there, but nothing with muscle behind it.

You can't tell me that Wisconsin doesn't have a bigger bully pulpit or emergency cookie jar to use in the face of the pending carp invasion.

Or Wisconsin could have convened leaders from the other states, the lakefront cities, the private sector, and the environmental community months ago to demand that the US Corps of Engineers and Illinois officials (the carp could get into the Great Lakes through an artificial, Chicago canal) get better prepared than they were at the recent, 11th hour with a mass poisoning in the canal.

Wisconsin used to be an environmental leader.

Gov. Tony Earl was largely responsible for getting the first Great Lakes Charter approved.

Gov. Gaylord Nelson went on to be come the prime mover in Congress on the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and, of course, Earth Day.

And Gov. Knowles shares credit with Nelson in creating the state Stewardship land purchase program.

Today, Wisconsin is always ready and willing to lay down concrete - - whether wetlands or ag land is in the way - - and to make sure the highway lobby is fed and cared for 24/7.

But Lake Michigan? Or the environment, generally-speaking.

Very little urgency and initiative from the executive branch.

1 comment:

PurpleAvenger said...

not to mention how fast they don't move on the transit crisis.