A very reasonable request, from a very reasonable organization, about an unreasonable process and a completely unconscionable giveaway of public resources:
ACTION ALERT UPDATE!
October 28, 2011
Lakes Demands Public Information Sessions and Additional Public Hearings on the 37-page Deregulation Bill
Six Priority Items Identified for Removal
This past Wednesday, the overwhelming majority of attendees of a public hearing either spoke or registered against Special Session Bill AB/SB 24, which would vastly change the regulatory process and rules protecting water and other resources in Wisconsin.
While only 17 people registered in favor of the bill, 175 registered against the legislation at the nearly 9 hour hearing before the Assembly and Senate Natural Resources Committees. Wisconsin Lakes’ lobbyist John Keckhaver attended on our behalf, and spoke against the bill.
From the testimony of individuals and the questions of the legislators, it is clear that everyone is still striving to understand the impact of the bill's many provisions and their intersection with other laws and court decisions related to water and habitat protections, the public trust doctrine, mining, transportation and other areas of resource protection.
It is completely unreasonable to expect residents of this state to have digested the bill's complexities in a week.
Our members, and all Wisconsin citizens, deserve to know what is in this sweeping legislation, and they should be afforded accessible and reasonable access to provide input and to participate in our democratic process.
To that end, Wisconsin Lakes is calling for public information sessions and additional public hearings around the state, to provide adequate time for everyone to understand the bill’s provisions, how they relate to current laws and regulations, and to allow citizens to “Speak for Lakes.”
We encourage you to contact your legislators, the chairs of the two committees, and the Governor, to demand a more open process and additional time for public understanding and involvement.
How to get involved:
Contact the chairs of the committees as well as both of your legislators and the Governor:
- Contact Senator Neil Kedzie:
Room 313 South – / PO Box 7882
- Contact Representative Jeffrey Mursau (R-Crivitz)
Room 18 North, State Capitol / PO Box 8953
- Find Your Own Legislator at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/waml/waml.aspx
- Contact Governor Walker:
Office of Governor Scott Walker
Wisconsin Lakes will continue to analyze the bill and report our findings to you, but we have identified six areas of special concern. We are calling for the following immediate changes to the legislation:
1) Remove default permitting from the bill. Developing a strategy for permit timelines that includes incentives and consequences has some merit, but any repercussions for missing deadlines should be directed toward Department staff, not our water resources. We recommend that rather than using legislation to set staff expectations, the DNR be given the chance to establish internal controls and employee incentives and/or consequences more in keeping with the goal of becoming an Enterprise Agency. By doing so, the Department becomes nimble, responsive and accountable while water resources are protected for citizens now and in the future.
2) Remove the provision allowing fill within bulkhead lines (artificial shoreline designations set by municipalities out from the actual shore). We have not seen scientific data or analysis of the extent of the impact this would have on our water resources and near shore habitat, and therefore cannot support this provision of the bill. If such evidence exists, then informational sessions are important so citizens can be fully educated. Because a bulkhead line extends into the water beyond the natural shoreline, our concern is that fill would be placed in the water on lake beds which, according to the state Constitution, are held in trust (and should therefore be protected) for all Wisconsin citizens. A hasty change in legislation without adequate scientific examination of the potential impact is not a level of protection we can support.
3) Remove the provisions allowing for removal of lake bed and vegetation for placement and access to piers. As above, scientific evidence examining the impact of such activity has been unavailable and we must err on the side of protecting water held in the public trust. Additionally, the bill fails to require permits for lake bed removal, making it impossible to track impacts over time.
4) Remove the provision allowing for a general permit for removal of nuisance plant and animal material. We strongly recommend that removal of nuisance plant and animal materials always be done under an individual permit due to the uniqueness of each situation, the volume of material targeted for removal, and the need to assess the potential for environmental harm.
5) Retain the bill's establishment of an Internet based public notice system, but not reject the existing requirement for newspaper notice. The bill makes the public notice requirement optional as to which format - newspaper or Internet - is used by DNR, but many citizens in Wisconsin do not have adequate Internet access and will likely not have it for some time. Allowing instances of public notice to be solely Internet-based would effectively remove citizens from the siting, permitting, public comment and public hearing processes, and the "either/or" nature of this bill would lead to even greater confusion as to where to watch for such notices in any given situation.
6) Remove the pier, wharf and boathouse sections from the bill. Current law on these issues is the result of recent comprehensive processes that involved considerable public input. The compromises and solutions that came from this collaborative work should be given time to be implemented.
To learn more about this issue:
- Read Wisconsin Lakes’ talking points memo at http://www.wisconsinlakes.org/policy/pdf/TalkngPts-SB24.pdf
- Read Wisconsin Lakes’ 10/27 press release at http://thewheelerreport.com/releases/October11/1027/1027wislakes.pdf
- Read Wisconsin Lakes’ 10/25 press release at http://www.wisconsinlakes.org/policy/pdf/PR.SB24(25OCT11).pdf
- Read the bill itself at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/related/proposals/se1_sb24.pdf