Sunday, August 6, 2017

Walker's latest untrustworthy move against WI Public Trust Doctrine

I've been noting on my blog that Walker's $3 billion state payments and subsidy bill for Foxconn development in the state collides with Article IX of the State Constitution because the bill would allow the diversion of waterways, filling of wetlands and other affronts to publicly-owned waters and water rights which the constitution says must be protected in the public interest by the state as the people's trustee.

It's such a basic principle of life and legacy in Wisconsin that I have had this note copied out on my blog's front page for years:
"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 Supreme Court in its 1960 opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC and buttressing The Public Trust Doctrine, Article IX of the Wisconsin State Constitution..
I was glad to post a cogent argument on these matter by veteran water law expert Melissa Scanlan and include her must-read op-ed in a Foxconn archive I have been collecting and updating, here.

It's important to understand the upending of the Public Trust Doctrine which Walker is seeking doesn't come out of the blue or without context.

It's just his latest, and boldest scheme as he gears up for another re-election campaign to give away what isn't his to hand over - - the people's waters - - which he began to disregard in his first hours as Governor with one, power-grabbing out-of-procedure wetlands fill, then continued more broadly on behalf of real estate brokers and developers, and lately on behalf of large animal feeding operations (CAFOs) seeking both downstream pollution permissions and permanent holds on groundwater which the people's lakes, rivers and stream need for their sustainability.

Regrettably, Walker is aiming - - for Foxconn and his own partisan place-holding - -  more directly at the constitutionally-significant Public Trust Doctrine, though I've been saying for almost four years ago that shoving the Public Trust Doctrine aside while cleverly avoiding a more dramatic confrontation with voters by trying to overturn it through a referendum has been the Walker/special-interest/Republican Party strategy:
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 or 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.

The evidence:

Both Stepp and her deputy, Matt Moroney, came from the building industry.

*  And the Walkerites - - both at the top of the DNR, in corporations and at lobbying groups across the state - - will be emboldened by a recent 4-3 State Supreme Court ruling written by big business captive David Prosser that will help the DNR further retreat from strong Public Trust Doctrine implementation.

On behalf of big business, donors and the private sector, Walker and his allies are draining the Public Trust Doctrine's effectiveness from the state constitution, or about to launch a full frontal assault as they are also discussing limiting constitutionally-defined voting rights.

Either way, those are our water rights being sold down the river. 


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