Hard to believe that it's been five years since the Great Lakes Compact, and a companion implementing bill to further protect this unique freshwater resource, were approved by the Wisconsin Legislature and signed into law by then-Governor Jim Doyle.
It occurred to me that this is a good time to note that without Doyle's focus - - and certainly he was working with a grand coalition of grassroots supporters and legislators on both sides of the aisle, so there is plenty of credit to be spread around - - the Compact would not be law in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes could well have been under further pressure for diversions just when climate change, invasive species and multiple sources of pollution were further pressuring the entire Great Lakes ecosystem.
It's worth remember that when the Compact and companion state enabling legislation was being considered at the Capitol, ultra-conservative state's righters and nascent Tea Party ground troopers were were busy trying to block the Compact from approval and implementation.
The obstructionists in Wisconsin were led by State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin), even though her home community was poised to receive a diversion of Lake Michigan water under the Compact's planned procedures. The opposition was that irrational - - an audio sample.
Lazich aligned herself with Ohio opponents, as did former State Rep. and now-Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, and then-Racine County State. Rep Scott ("Gundy") Gunderson, now the number-three official - - Executive Assistant - - at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Wrote Lazich on her blog in 2008 (the original link may not be good any longer, but I'd copied out the text, below):
Let’s work with Ohio to improve the Great Lakes Compact
By Mary Lazich
Friday, Feb 15 2008, 12:55 PM
For months I have been recommending that Wisconsin refrain from approving a Great Lakes Compact that is flawed and should instead work with officials in other states that share my concerns, like Ohio to achieve a strong document.By the way, Gunderson works with another former Wisconsin Compact opponent, Matt Moroney, an attorney and former Milwaukee metro area building industry official who is DNR's number two official - - Deputy Secretary.
That is why I am encouraged to hear that Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch and State Representative Scott Gunderson have written a letter to the President of the Ohio state Senate, Senator Bill Harris, stating they want to collaborate with the state of Ohio on changes to the Compact.
Representatives Huebsch and Gunderson correctly state they desire a strong Compact to protect the waters of the Great Lakes, that private property rights must be protected, and that one state should not have the power to impact the economic development efforts of another Great Lakes state.
I support Speaker Huebsch and Representative Gunderson in this endeavor.
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, also from the building industry, has at key moments shelved her agency's neutral, honest-broker role (taking a partisan, pro-mining stance, for example) and suggesting that it was the DNR's role to get Waukesha's diversion approved rather than holding the application to a rigorous legal, fiscal, and environmental review.
Imagine being a career DNR scientist right now tasked to vet the Waukesha diversion application under the Compact's rules with that crew looking over your shoulder.
I'd posted many of Lazich's statements here to establish the record and illustrate why, when the Compact's approval by the Legislature had stalled, Doyle moved to take control of the process from a study committee chaired by the ineffectual State Sen. Neal Kedzie, (R-Elkhorn) and lead by more direct executive action.
Without Doyle's focus - - he was also chairman of the Great Lakes Governors Council at the time - - I think it's fair to say that the Compact might not have cleared the opponents' roadblocks.
And the Compact might not be in operation today preserving Great Lakes water from raids by far-away communities.
A bad national economy and the growth of Tea Party subsequently helped convince Doyle not to run for a third term in 2010 - - the same dynamic that helped Tea party/GOP candidate Ron Johnson defeat incumbent US Sen. Russ Feingold and Republicans take control of both houses of the Wisconsin legislature.
And though Doyle has kept a low profile since, environmentalists should remember his role in moving the Great Lakes Compact on to the books.
And that he tried to bring to Amtrak expansion and its jobs to Wisconsin, plus a much-enhanced open space Stewardship fund cut in the last two budgets - - all initiatives dismantled or ruined by Walker for his special-interest corporate friends who prefer selling and privatizing public lands, filling wetlands and widening highways to the exclusion of public-interest governance.
Had the approval and implementation of the Great Lakes Compact fallen to Walker and his "chamber-of-commerce mentality DNR, it would have fallen, period.