Tuesday, June 20, 2017

WI groups fight Walker's DNR. Again.

Again, the people of Wisconsin have to fight for the land and water - - and at their own cost - - against the state government they also fund through taxes.

Such is life in Wisconsin - - whether it's to save the Bad River watershed in the Northwest from open-pit mining, destructive golf course construction along the Lake Michigan shoreline near Sheboygan, or drinking water supplies long-contaminated by feedlot runoff in Kewaunee County in the Northeast - - because right-wing GOP Gov. and corporate servant Scott Walker has installed "a chamber of commerce mentality" atop the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 

Here's the bigger picture.

This time the familiar pattern repeats itself because the DNR hurriedly approved a big sand mine where there are wetlands and rare stands of timber, and environmental groups are going to court to force the DNR to do its job on behalf of taxpayers and the environment spelled out here by the DNR itself.

Here's what's happening in the latest DNR-created crisis:

Wetlands Destruction Permit Challenged over Significant Harm
Ho-Chunk Nation asks for review of DNR’s approval

FOR RELEASE: Tuesday, June 20, 2017

CONTACT:  Sarah Geers, Midwest Environmental Advocates Staff Attorney, 608-251-5047 x 5, sgeers@midwestadvocates.org

Stacy Harbaugh, Midwest Environmental Advocates Communications Director, 608-251-5047 x 1, sharbaugh@midwestadvocates.org

MADISON, WI – On Monday, Midwest Environmental Advocates – on behalf of the Ho-Chunk Nation – filed a petition to challenge the wetland fill permit issued to Meteor Timber LLC for an industrial sand processing facility and rail project. Clean Wisconsin also challenged the permit and requested administrative review by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The petitions ask to put the wetland fill on hold until the parties can get review of the agency’s decision.

The request is urgent. The DNR’s approval for Meteor Timber to fill over 16 acres of rare and high-quality wetlands puts valuable natural resources in danger of irreparable destruction.

“The public needs the DNR to protect natural resources like wetlands,” said MEA staff attorney Sarah Geers. “The agency admitted in Meteor Timber’s permit approval that this action may lead to increased applications to destroy rare wetlands. Without our DNR as a gatekeeper, we will continue to lose valuable wetlands that provide irreplaceable habitat and ecological functions. Meteor Timber’s promise to conserve land or rebuild wetlands isn’t a guaranteed fair trade. These rare, high quality wetlands are very difficult to recreate and provide vital and disappearing habitat for threatened or endangered species. “
The Ho-Chunk Nation and Midwest Environmental Advocates are challenging the Meteor Timber wetland fill permit because:

-            Meteor Timber’s project will cause irreparable harm to high quality wetlands and habitat – the DNR acknowledges the significant adverse environmental impacts of this project, but allowed this large wetland fill anyway.

-            The DNR approved the permit without enough information – the agency needed more information on the net positive or negative impacts of Meteor Timber’s wetlands destruction and mitigation plan before making a decision.

Information is still missing on how many acres are shifting from cranberry production to industrial use, whether a wildlife underpass would be successful, restoration and reservoir drawdown plans, wetland and vegetation surveys for mitigation plans and other details about threatened and endangered species protection.
-            Meteor Timber did not prove there would be an economic benefit for the public – the applicant did not do enough research on other sites that would not cause as much wetland destruction on the false promise that the project would provide economic benefits to the community, despite significant public opposition to this project.

-            The DNR’s findings of fact prove that DNR should not have issued the permit – in the Meteor Timber wetland permit, the DNR could not guarantee there would not be significant and adverse impacts to the environment, and the DNR should have denied the permit on this basis.

The Ho-Chunk Nation and Midwest Environmental Advocates have been raising questions about Meteor Timber’s application by submitting formal comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July 2016 and to the DNR in April.


Joshua Skolnick said...

You mean this project did not do an alternatives analysis that included the no build option? Where is tbe US Army Corps in on this process? Isn't approval from them under the Individual Permit requirements under Section 404 required? Has anyone contacted Corps regulatory staff?

James Rowen said...

I figure these issues will be raised by the plaintiffs and complainants. But it shouldn't have to be their job.