Friday, July 19, 2013

WI Supreme Court Lining Up With Corporate Interests On Water

I offer this explanation from Milwaukee Riverkeeper of the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that weakened public water rights and protections enshrined in the State Constitution Article IX, The Public Trust Doctrine.

A very worrisome development, given the new corporate threats to state water from frac sand mines, industrial-scale dairies and the proposed iron ore mine:

Wisconsin Supreme Court Undermines Public Trust Doctrine

On Tuesday a divided Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in a case that undermines the Public Trust Doctrine and the duty of the State to protect common waterways for the benefit of the public. 

The Court held that the DNR did not have the authority under the Public Trust Doctrine (enshrined in our State Constitution) to consider the impact of wetlands located above the ordinary high water mark in deciding not to raise water levels on Lake Koshkonong, near Fort Atkinson.

The Rock-Koshkonong Lake District had sued the DNR  to raise water levels to bolster tourism, lake access and the value of property around the lake. (The lake is formed by a dam and levels dropped as part of dam repair in prior years.)  The DNR argued that raising lake levels would worsen shore erosion and cause wetland habitat loss at the lake.

In overtuning the DNR’s decision, the Court ruled that the Public Trust Doctrine (and hence the DNR’s duty to protect the wetlands) did not extend to the wetlands. 

Moreover, the Court held that the DNR improperly failed to consider evidence of the economic impact of low water levels for residents, businesses, and tax base at or near the lake.  

The decision, clearly motivated by politics to favor private property owners, attempts to gut over one hundred years of jurisprudence that calls for the DNR to actively manage our water resources (including wetlands, groundwater, lakes and rivers), as trustees, with public rights to these resources paramount. 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It's so discouraging to have a front row seat to the destruction of our environment and country. Those who go about their business as usual while some of us try to stop this destruction will be those who scream the loudest and blame everyone but themselves.