Monday, April 10, 2017

WI DNR, Lac Courte Oreilles tribe in water quality settlement

There is news about a proposed water quality and procedural agreement between the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe, (LCO), the Courte Oreilles Lake Association, (COLA), and the Wisconsin DNR to address phosphorous contamination in Lac Courte Oreilles:
Courte Oreilles Lakes Association

Contact: Jim Coors COLA Communications Dir.
Mobile: 608-628-0694

COLA and the LCO Tribe Reach a Legal Settlement with the Wisconsin DNR
This settlement, reached on March 31, 2017, is a major milestone for COLA and the future of Lac Courte Oreilles!  Details of the settlement are posted on the COLA website.
Four Essential Elements Allow COLA, the LCO Tribe, and the WDNR to Work Together to Improve Water Quality
What is important for you as COLA members to know is how this settlement promotes cooperative and productive relationships among COLA, the Tribe, and WDNR to the benefit of Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO). Specifically:
1. The WDNR will be proposing creation of a protective phosphorus Site Specific Criterion (SSC) for LCO. WDNR’s initial refusal to do so was the basis for requesting the judicial review. The new phosphorus standard will include all basins and bays of LCO, the entire lake. Our legal struggle was well worth the effort based on these outcomes alone. But there’s more …

2. The WDNR now acknowledges that COLA and the LCO Tribe conducted significant scientific analyses of LCO’s water quality. Furthermore, WDNR's scientific staff will consider COLA’s and the Tribe’s analyses when developing the phosphorus SSC. Our science will be respected.

3. All steps involved with the SSC development are subject to strict adherence to a reasonable schedule of deadlines. WDNR will not draw out the SSC process to unreasonable lengths.
4. COLA and the LCO Tribe retain the right to resume litigation if WDNR does not honor the settlement’s terms. We are not giving up our right to fight back.
What’s Not Settled - Challenges Remain
Challenge #1   The WDNR will submit a scope statement that initiates development of a protective phosphorus SSC for LCO to Governor Walker by May 15, 2017. If the Governor approves the scope statement, it will then be submitted to the WI Natural Resources Board for its approval. Approval at either step is not a given, not even close. Interest groups with money and influence now will have the ability to shut the process down.
Challenge #2   The settlement does not directly address the claim that WDNR relied on an erroneous interpretation of law to conclude that all phosphorus pollution to LCO is “nonpoint” pollution. The settlement states that this claim will be dismissed without prejudice, and that COLA and the LCO Tribe reserve their right to address this claim in the future. This means that absent any effort by the WDNR or cranberry growers to limit phosphorus discharges directly into LCO, COLA and the LCO Tribe may have to continue to pursue legal remedies.
COLA Mission: 1) to protect, preserve and enhance the quality of Lac Courte Oreilles and Little Lac Courte Oreilles, their shorelands and surrounding areas, while respecting the interests of property owners and the rights of the general public; and 2) to consider, study, survey and respond to issues deemed relevant by COLA's membership.


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