Sunday, April 30, 2017

Walker ran, and won in '10, on an environmental & political lie

[Updated] The Wisconsin Legislature is poised to intentionally make an unprecedented and radically extreme environmental misstep Tuesday undoing decades of commonsense stewardship of Wisconsin's waters.

In thrall to the state's biggest special interests, in lockstep with like-minded partisans across the government and despite what the State Constitution guarantees, GOP-led legislators will finally send to right-wing Wisconsin GOP Governor and promoter of "chamber of commerce mentality" governance Scott Walker a bill to allow the state's biggest private groundwater users - - animal feedlot operators, sand mines, golf courses, mega-farms, etc. et al - - with existing permits to take all the water they want.

Through so-called high capacity wells that can draw 70 gallons a minute, 100,000 gallons a day.

In perpetuity, and regardless of the cumulative and downstream or neighboring impacts, with Walker donors already getting preference.

Paying nothing for the water - - the people's resource - - except a $500 application fee to the DNR which has not been raised since 2004 - -  and also being able under the bill to transfer that valuable permit to someone else.

Creating instant wealth for the holders of 12,700 such permits beyond their daily privatized water extraction - - a permit total which the AP says has more than doubled since 1990.

In other words - - first come, first served, as they say - - like it has always been in the Wild West where land and minerals and timber and water went to who could grab it first - - an essentially immoral and selfish 'culture' now come to Wisconsin just as Walker's ideological mentors in Koch and Trump world would have all the earth's goodies divvied up.

Certainly most of Wisconsin's groundwater right of the bat - - save for perhaps in the over-pumped Central Sands area for which yet another study of the obvious implications of over-pumping may be carried out by the obviously-and-deliberately under-staffed DNR - - where new high-capacity well permit seekers will get the GOP's signature laissez-faire treatment prior to achieving permanent well-permit-holding-and-transferring status rubber-stamped by a DNR which Walker on behalf of his donors and partisan foot-soldiers has demoralized and demolished.

So as Tuesday draws near, I think it's important to remember that Walker campaigned on, and came into office through a repetitious political and environment lie - - a deception and false distraction meant to throw people off the scent about his relationship to the environment and its management that he has spent the intervening years damaging as the truth has unfolded.

The lie:

That it was his 2010 Democratic opponent Tom Barrett - - and not Walker himself - - who had a secret, radical extremist environmental agenda.

Talk about a Hall of Fame Whopper, with consequences I noted the other day:

...right-wing GOP Gov. Scott Walker and his 'chamber of commerce mentality' administration are playing pollution enabler again.
Not content with speeding along and otherwise endorsing ruinous open-pit iron mining in the Bad River watershed, unchecked clean air and water pollution from sand mines, massive groundwater privatization for Big Ag & Dairy, eased wetlands fillings, hundreds more impaired rivers, greater shoreline development, fewer pollution inspections and enforcement actions, expansions of big feedlots, decades more phosphorous pollution in state waterways, widespread nitrate contamination in rural drinking water, the dead zone in Lake Michigan, and smokestack emissions from power plants - - one Wisconsin GOP special interest practitioner who is also a state legislator has come up with yet another way to give polluters freer rein to contaminate the land and water:
The bill, introduced Monday by Rep. Andre Jacque, of DePere, would extend the current 90-day deadline for correcting violations found through the DNR environmental compliance audit program.
Violators would be allowed 180 days for most violations, and would be allowed 360 days if modification of pollution prevention equipment is required.
The bill also would eliminate the current legal requirements that businesses notify the DNR at least 30 days before beginning a compliance audit, and that the public be notified and be allowed to comment on timetables for bringing a business into compliance.
So let me, for the record, repost what I wrote on 12:01 a.m. January 3rd, 2011, - - the first minute of the day Walker was sworn in publicly, but had already appropriately taken the oath of office privately:
Meet Wisconsin's Radical Environmentalists
The corporate water-carrier Scott Walker swaggers into office Monday on the strength of a 52% 'mandate' - - leaving behind nearly nine years of political and financial disinterest and disaster at the Milwaukee County Courthouse - - and arrives sworn in as Governor early, and silently, and with major state train construction and labor contract cancellations (victories, he says) under his belt already.

Let's note one telling episode during his at least five-year run for Governor that helped him to his 52% and hints at what's coming through at least 2014.

During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Scott Walker ran an ad that claimed opponent Tom Barrett had a "radical environmental agenda."

What a whopper and deliberate political diversion that was - - but two weeks later, right on schedule and closer to the election, there was the "radical environmental" bogeyman in scary tones from the National Rifle Association, lauding Walker for his opposition to "radical environmental regulations enacted by the DNR."

There's the Right's pitch-perfect, echo chamber harmony, and fine foreshadowing, too, as Walker has put the home builders and others who have yearned for years to neuter the Department of Natural Resources in charge of the agency.

And also to weaken Wisconsin's conservation efforts, which is about as radical as you can get in the land of Gaylord Nelson, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir.

And here's the kicker:

It was Walker all along who had the radical environmental blueprint, the 'Cut It, Gut It, Pave it, Fill It' plan to help the home builders and road builders help themselves to the state's wetlands, forests, and from inside the DNR.

The DNR - - an - - the state agency - -  with a broad and historic mandate to operate in the public interest as its number-one priority.

How old is that legacy? And how deep?

Its role managing the state's water resources as a public trust dates to common law, then to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and is embedded in the state constitution, in part as a check on elected officials who have power but are unfamiliar with the concepts of "public" and "trust."

At the bottom of this posting, I will copy out the entire DNR web page text about the Public Trust Doctrine, just in case the Walker people begin their cutting and gutting by deleting or changing the wording in favor of, say, new DNR Secretary designee and former home builder Cathy Stepp's view of the DNR and the environment, as she wrote on a conservative blog:

"Those of you that haven't had the pleasure of peeking behind the scenes of our state agencies like DNR, Health and Family Services, etc...need to know how some of the most far-reaching policies come down on our heads.
The most crushing/controversial rules that businesses have to follow in our state are--most times--done through the "rule making process" of our state agencies. Without bogging everyone down with some really boring procedure talk, suffice it to say that many of these great ideas (sarcasm) come from deep inside the agencies and tend to be reflections of that agency's culture.

For example, people who go to work for the DNR's land, waste, and water bureaus tend to be anti-development, anti-transportation, and pro-garter snakes, karner blue butterflies, etc...This is in their nature; their make-up and DNA. So, since they're unelected bureaucrats who have only their cubicle walls to bounce ideas off of, they tend to come up with some pretty outrageous stuff that those of us in the real world have to contend with..."
Choosing special interest business representatives and DNR bashers who are driven by the profit motive and placing them in charge of this particular agency and its stewardship of the Public Trust Doctrine unmasks Walker as the real environmental radical.

From the DNR's Public Trust Doctrine webpage:

The Public Trust Doctrine


Wisconsin lakes and rivers are public resources, owned in common by all Wisconsin citizens under the state's Public Trust Doctrine. Based on the state constitution, this doctrine has been further defined by case law and statute. It declares that all navigable waters are "common highways and forever free", and held in trust by the Department of Natural Resources.




As a result, the public interest, once primarily interpreted to protect public rights to transportation on navigable waters, has been broadened to include protected public rights to water quality and quantity, recreational activities, and scenic beauty.(1) 

All Wisconsin citizens have the right to boat, fish, hunt, ice skate, and swim on navigable waters, as well as enjoy the natural scenic beauty of navigable waters, and enjoy the quality and quantity of water that supports those uses.(2)

Wisconsin law recognizes that owners of lands bordering lakes and rivers - "riparian" owners - hold rights in the water next to their property. These riparian rights include the use of the shoreline, reasonable use of the water, and a right to access the water. However, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court has ruled that when conflicts occur between the rights of riparian owners and public rights, the public's rights are primary and the riparian owner's secondary.(1)

What are Wisconsin's stream and lake access laws?

Wisconsin's Public Trust Doctrine requires the state to intervene to protect public rights in the commercial or recreational use of navigable waters. The DNR, as the state agent charged with this responsibility, can do so through permitting requirements for water projects, through court action to stop nuisances in navigable waters, and through statutes authorizing local zoning ordinances that limit development along navigable waterways.

The court has ruled that DNR staff, when they review projects that could impact Wisconsin lakes and rivers, must consider the cumulative impacts of individual projects in their decisions.

"A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist. Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC.(2)

(1) Quick, John. 1994. The Public Trust Doctrine in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1. 
(2) "Champions of the Public Trust, A History of Water Use in Wisconsin" study guide. 1995. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Water Regulation and Zoning.
For more information, contact:
Dale Simon, Waterway Protection Section
Bureau of Watershed Management
(608) 267-9868


Who's displacing Scott Walker as WI special interest King?

This guy - - Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
Picture of Representative Robin Vos

* Vos is the key legislative Friend of the Road-Builders who wants in the pending state budget to outspend long-time highways' over-spender champion Scott Walker by an extra $300 million.

* And Vos is the key lawmaker who lined up his special-interested Attorney General ally to draft the opinion giving legal cover to big business' hand-delivered demands now speeding in bill fashion through the Assembly Tuesday to give permanent control of Wisconsin groundwater by the multiple billions of gallons of free groundwater forever - - regardless of the downstream impacts and cumulative effects on neighbors' wells.

Big Ag. Big Dairy, the WMC, and more  - - count 'em, here.

And throw in road-builders?

Quite the deep pockets, Bucky.

So when Scott Walker leaves office for a Trump ambassadorship or Koch brothers-financed soft landing, Vos will be well-positioned to rake in all the big donor cash he needs to push Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch aside to provide the state's most powerful special interests with all all the certainty they can afford.

WI water grab accelerates, permanent privatization on horizon

[Update from 4/26/17 - - An historically destructive Wisconsin water abuse and privatization bill that violates the State Constitution's Public Trust Doctrine, Wisconsin history and every known principle of resource stewardship, conservation and public health protection is being rushed by special interests and their GOP lackeys to an Assembly vote next Tuesday, after which Walker will immediately sign it.]
When it comes to Wisconsin waters, the tag line off an old song is 'danger, heartbreak dead ahead,' and it all began in 2007 when Koch interests anointed Scott Walker as the man for the job.

And about a year ago, these same special interests now aligned to serve Scott Walker and his corporate backers coordinated and produced a legal opinion from a far-right and ideological compliant Attorney General that is about to literally open the floodgates and send the people's water in perpetuity to the largest private users.

All to give 'certainty' to special interests by guaranteeing them permanent control of billions of gallons of public water at no cost and no regard for downstream or nearby wells, lakes, rivers and streams- - so it's also a certainty that the campaign committees for the lead players in this Great Water heist - - Republicans corporate errand boys Scott Walker, Brad Schimel, Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald will be partisan and financial growth centers in Wisconsin for years to come.

There's no way to minimize the environmental and legal disaster being imposed on Wisconsin and its publicly-owned waters by conservative bottom-line rightist ideologues, donors and corporately-manipulated Republicans who occupy and are coordinating the Governor's Office, Legislative majorities in both chambers, the Office of Attorney General, all relevant stage agency management positions and a 5-2 majority on an openly-conflicted, giddly-greedy State Supreme Court.

As I wrote in 2013:
Ultimate GOP Environmental Target in Wisconsin is the Public Trust Doctrine
There is a principle in state law and history known as the Public Trust Doctrine. Though awkwardly titled, it's crucial to Wisconsin's appeal by guaranteeing everyone here the right to access and enjoy all waters in the state.

The Public Trust Doctrine dates to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 - - long before Wisconsin statehood - - and is etched as Article IX in the Wisconsin State Constitution.

You can read about it on a DNR website, here.

But this basic Wisconsin birthright remains under continuous assault by Gov. Walker, Republican legislators, business groups and even short-sighted judges.
And you don't have to be a water expert of political scientist to see that removing the Public Trust Doctrine from the state constitution, or watering it down to insignificance is atop the GOP's conservative and anti-conservation agenda. 
And despite alarms raised, Wisconsin under Walker's 'chamber of commerce mentality' governance is:

*  Approving a rush of high-capacity well permits even in areas with known groundwater shortages;

*  Closing in on making these high-volume groundwater pumping permits permanent for their private owners without ongoing reviews of the downstream or cumulative impacts;

*  Continually bending bend law and policy in favor of the big water users and even polluters who abuse the terms of their easy-street permits;

* Letting big corporate users take keep the public's water in direct violation of Article IX of the Wisconsin State Constitution, which has long-declared that:

Wisconsin's Waters Belong to Everyone
No wonder the way Wisconsin's environmental legacy is being hijacked is seen as the model for the Trump administration's commandeering of the US EPA, the Department of the Interior, and other science-based public agencies and managers of public resources.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Despite Kohler's golf course annexation ploy, hurdles remain

[Updated] I posted information earlier today about the move by Kohler interests to get their proposed golf course property along the Lake Michigan shoreline annexed by the City of Sheboygan so perhaps the level of local opposition in the Town of Wilson would go away.

While that possible annexation may or may not happen, and may or may not have consequences both expected and unexpected, it's important to remember that the plan to convert a 247-acre wooded-and-wetland-and rare dune-rich nature preserve

into a high-end, groundwater-sucking and traffic spawning private facility at the edge of the lake still faces many hurdles regardless of which local jurisdiction the golf course is allowed to put on its return address, including:

*  Tribal approvals. Remember that the Bad River band's treaty rights and legal prerogatives were among the key reasons the proposed Gtac open-pit iron mine plan for the Bad River watershed collapsed.  A new national report about that is here.

This is relevant because the proposed golf course site was occupied long ago by native people, is filled with thousands of artifacts that includes at least one ceremonial mound which must be protected despite all the destruction, construction and presence of thousands of golfers.

The permitting process requires that the Federal government contact more than two dozen native groups and inform them of the plan, opening numerous routes to various delays.

*  Required permits. The wetland permit application which was recently been filed, and about which many complex questions were raised by DNR experts, is not the only permit needed. Each permit requires a separate application, review, and so on.

*  Because the golf course property is also to absorb several acres of adjoining land in Kohler Andrae State Park, the park's operating Master Plan will have to be amended by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board which oversees the Department of Natural Resources.

The Board is heavy with Walker appointees - - and it's been known for sometime that Walker's campaign committee has benefited from big developer donations - -  but amending a state park Master Plan, especially for a park as popular as is Kohler Andrae which has long-standing strong advocacy, is not a slam dunk. 

The Board decision will require a public vote; public testimony is not required but could be allowed by the Board. 

* Finally, the DNR's draft Environmental Impact Statement assessing all the environmental impacts posed by the golf course plan has not yet been deemed complete by the DNR.

All of these issues have to be addressed, reviewed, and as with all such matters - - possibly litigated - - regardless of whether the golf course property remains in the Town of Wilson or is annexed by the City of Sheboygan.

*  Federal approvals. I'm well aware that Trump's election has profoundly changed and deteriorated the mission of the US EPA and made a bad situation in Wisconsin that much worse, but the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers - - a separate body with its own, engrained culture - - still have obligations with regard to the project's potential impact on Lake Michigan water quality, the integrity of the shoreline dunes, and so forth.

I'm not downplaying the significance of the annexation ploy. I'm just saying that there are multiple timetables in play, regardless.

Latest Kohler golf course ploy: change the map

A case study in development by gerrymander.

I'm posting a long communication from Friends of the Black River Forest who bring us up to date on the latest twist in the controversial plan to turn a 247-acre nature preserve along Lake Michigan into a high-end golf course:

KOHLER asks City of Sheboygan to annex  proposed course
to avoid all accountability to Town of Wilson

In an action signaling it is above respecting an entire Town and its residents, the Kohler Company has asked the City of Sheboygan to annex its proposed golf course land to the City, taking the decision away from the Town that will be impacted by the development. Town of Wilson’s ordinances expect a developer to show the impacts to the neighboring properties as part of its Conditional Use Permit requirements. This was too much for the Kohler Company. The Company balked at paying for consultants to determine short and long term impacts. It had a pattern of providing incomplete information critical to the Town’s, DNR’s and Army Corps's permit applications. Apparently the review process is just not part of what they want to do.

When you are above the rules what do you do if you are Kohler? 

Get the City of Sheboygan to annex you, thereby avoiding any accountability to the residents of Wilson. Make offers to residents they can't refuse so they will vote to annex?Get the owner of Riverdale Golf Course to negotiate with the City of Sheboygan for sweet deals? Perhaps tell the residents along 12th Street it would be a good idea to annex since studies show their wells might be most at risk from golf course pumping. All the while costing Wilson's Town Board and Plan Commission hours upon hours of time diligently following the approved process.
It is difficult for those who are grateful to the Koher Company to objectively evaluate the impacts of this proposed golf course for years to come. Looking only through the lens of economic impacts they miss the critical issues of water, pollution, and the give away of their State Park land for one company's profit-all issues which affect the economy in the long run. FBRF's belief is that no matter how civic minded anyone is, he or she is not above the law or the rules.

The City of Sheboygan Common Council

The City of Sheboygan will get a whopping $17,000 in real estate taxes from Kohler's parcel along with taxes from whomever else is annexed to the city. The city will be in a position for further development and the annexation of the Town itself. We would hope that the Sheboygan Common Council members would search their consciences before they inflict a project on this sensitive environmental corridor and its residents which can never be reversed. Will the ever present desire to make life cheaper for their constituents  justify throwing their neighbors to the south under the bus?
The city alderpersons won’t be affected by the impacts to the quiet Town of Wilson, the environmental changes, or the sounds of saws and bulldozers removing 150 acres of trees sending runoff into the lake. They live nowhere near our Town. Since they will not witness this they certainly will not have to inform themselves of any of the scientific information describing impacts, unless they look beyond the money.

Minimalist? Green? Environmental Practices?

The Kohler Company had the choice of planning a course according to environmentally sound practices. Many golf courses are built on completely green priciples. Instead, using no environmentally sound principles, the company made up the term ”minimalist” while planning a complete reconstruction of the land, and threatening Wilson’s wells to boot.

This Company has had DNR staff working for it for 3 years without filling out an application. This company wrote Scott Walker asking him to smooth the regulatory process. Now, impatient that anyone would want to protect their water and health, Kohler tries to get around this pesky task of accountability because the City of Sheboygan would jump at any increased revenue.

FBRF has been working for 3 years to educate people on the very real impacts of this proposed course. Why have we hung in?

  • We are doing this for the residents of Wilson and to protect their access to clean water
  • We are doing this for the waters of Lake Michigan, the Black River and the Sheboygan River
  • We are doing this to preserve our State Park land and its rich habitat
  • We are doing this to protect the beaches and shore from further impairment
  • We are doing this because the legislature has been on a mission to give away our water and allow businesses to pollute
  • We are doing this because right here, in the Town of Wilson we can say, the favoritism ends here. There is too much at stake for us to cling to the argument that Kohler makes beautiful things. Credible scientific data on impacts must be considered even for a Kohler Company project.
  • We are doing this for our future 

FBRF has a tough road ahead and will do all we can to challenge the City of Sheboygan. To do this we need active supporters to:
  • share information
  • donate to our legal fund
  • show up when hearings are held.

We cannot force people to understand what is at stake and step up. If the public chooses to be uninvolved FBRF cannot fight their fight. We make all the necessary information available to you. Let us not go down the road of Kewanee, the Central Sands, Waukesha, Green Bay and the miles of shore north of Cleveland which are contaminated. Follow our newsletters for FBRF's plan of action.

here is the Kohler proposed annexation map

Attend the Town of Wilson Board Meeting Monday May 1, 6:30 p.m.
5935 S. Business Drive, Sheboygan, Wi.
Comment to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by May 6
regarding Kohler Wetland Permit application
USACE PUBLIC NOTICE and Kohler Wetland Permit Application, click here  to view DOCUMENTS

This is the letter FBRF has sent to the Army Corps regarding the Wetland Permit Application.

This is a link to documents sent to the Army Corps of Engineers in addition to our letter.

Suggested Template: You do not have to write a long comment. Just pick one issue
or more if you'd like. Individuals need to respond as well as FBRF.


Subject: The Kohler Wetland Permit Application
Comments: I object to the permitting of the Kohler golf course for these reasons: (Be objective, referring to information in the Public Notice or the Wetland Permit Application. This can include what further information you think is needed or what is not mentioned. If you have written the DNR previously assume the USACE has not read your comments to the DNR.

***FBRF will be asking the USACE for a public hearing.

Wetland Gems, Important Bird Area, Ridge and Swale and Interdunal wetlands, Endangered Species
Check out more documents on our website from:
Wisconsin Wetland Accociation,
Wisconsin Socity for Ornithology
Quentin Carpenter - PhD, Land Resources

FBRF is hiring experts for the review of this permit. We will considering litigating the isue of annexation and any improprieties in the DNR's permit review process.
FBRF is a 501(c) (3) charity

Sign our petition to halt the constuction of the proposed Kohler Golf Course in the Town of Wilson, WI.

Kohler Claims Course Will Be "Minimalist"

Excerpts from DNR Draft  Kohler Environmental Impact Study
Quentin Carpenter, PhD in Land Resources: "In general, I find little new information in the DEIS compared to the scoping documents initially supplied by Kohler, and I see few questions that were raised by the public either answered or at times even acknowledged. Like the initial document, this DEIS focusses on minutia and largely ignores the larger issue that this proposal will completely transform the existing, largely intact and functional, dune, swale and forest ecosystem that developed here over millennia into a human-dominated, northern European analog. There is no reason to expect that the leftover fragments of the prior system are likely to survive the new and altered hydrologic, trophic and disturbance regimes. There is every reason to expect that the fragments will turn into weed patches dominated by exotic and/or invasive species.

A truthful description would include the fact that many of the former dunes will be altered and covered with imported soil upon which nonnative European grasses will be planted and that half the forest will be cleared and the rest left as fragments with occasional view corridors of Lake Michigan."

Kohler's Wetland Permit Application and their course descriptions do not include the collateral damage from the tournaments the course would host. The Company rejects any other alternative plan, insisting it be a tournament course and for this reason needs to use 4-20 acres of our State Park land.  The course layout clearly shows there is not sufficient room for 300,000+ tournament attendees, buses, trucks, tents,etc. (see wetland permit application maps).