Saturday, November 4, 2017

WMC floods wetland filling 'debate' with polluting nonsense

[Updated from 11/4/17] More on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's and the GOP/big business war on water policy:

Turns out you don't need all those wetlands, sez the same WMC and newly-minted water front-group exec:

Lucas Vebber: Wetlands legislation is good for Wisconsin

If his name rings a bell, it's because he helped convince the GOP-led Legislature to exempt the massive Foxconn development site in rural Racine County from a routine environmental impact review

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce testified at the hearing Thursday that the group supported a controversial item in the Foxconn package as proposed - - no surprise - - by Gov. Walker that would exempt the massive, precedent-setting project's construction construction and operation  from having an Environmental Impact Statement prepared, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported: 
Lucas Vebber, general counsel and director of environmental policy at business lobbying group Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, told the committee that environmental impact statements were "burdensome" and "essentially a book report.”
And his credentials to help push Wisconsin environmental policy? See if you can spot them in his bio put up by a UW energy policy institute:
Lucas Vebber joined WMC in 2015 as the Director of Environmental & Energy Policy. 
Prior to WMC Lucas was the Deputy Chief of Staff and Policy Director for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. He oversaw the Senate Committee on Organization, helped to develop and advance the Senate’s legislative agenda for the previous two sessions and played a key role in crafting and passing Right to Work legislation.
Prior to working with Sen. Fitzgerald, Lucas was the Assistant Deputy Secretary at the Department of Financial Institutions. He has worked in various legislative staff roles and on several legislative campaigns.
Update - - This cavalier and unscientific dismissal goes hand-in-hand with Republican legislators aiming to withdraw protection for 1,000,000 acres wetlands which they erroneously refer to as "low-quality"  - - text, video here - - despite the wetlands' value in flood prevention, habitat support and other valuable public purposes.

And flies in the face of what underlies the state constitution's Public Trust Doctrine - - and which I've copied out on this blog's face page from a still-extant DNR web page with material titled "Wisconsin's Waters Along to Everyone" - - that all the state's waters are connected, and even a small fill threatens waters far from the bulldozing:

"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.
The consequences are real, unintended or not, and the so-called fixes have built-in problems, the Wisconsin State Journal Sunday reports:
“Not everything is replaceable,” said Erin O’Brien, policy programs director of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association. “It can be difficult to replicate the form and function of wetlands that have been on the landscape for a very long time.”
Replacement acreage should be near the filled wetlands, but that doesn’t always happen.
“They may not even be in the same watershed, and if you’re talking about flood control, that’s a problem,” said Wisconsin Wildlife Federation executive director George Meyer, who is a former DNR secretary.
The GOP legislators' uninformed dismissal of so-called "low-quality" wetlands as without value - - except to help developers make money - - reminds me of the controversial Kohler golf course plan for a Sheboygan-area nature preserve.

In addition to bulldozing dunes, releasing mass quantities of fertilizers and filling wetlands, the plan also seeks the private use for roads, parking and buildings of so-called "lightly-used" state parkland:

Former Kohler-Andrae State Park Superintendent Jim Buchholz, who retired in 2013 after 36 years with DNR, had earlier raised strong objections to the project and ceding control of any park land to a private business, saying, in part: 
The Dept. of Natural Resources has no right and nor any responsibility to “give away” 4-plus acres of publicly-owned state park land to anyone, especially to a “for-profit” business or person for the purpose of increasing the revenue of such business or to increase the income of any person or corporation.  
The EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] document map shows a total of over 19 acres that are being considered for Kohler’s development with no detail as to the actual footprint of the development. The EIS mentions the size of maintenance building to be constructed on state park lands but does not state the size of the paved parking lot that would need to service the proposed maintenance building.
The area listed for conversion is listed as “lightly used”… as if it doesn’t matter if the land is given away or not.  
This is far from the truth. The area may not be used as heavily as the park’s beach and picnic areas but this was by design by park management...
"There is no reason to take away public state park land and destroy rare sand dune formations and habitat for Kohler’s shop building and parking area development when they have 247 acres of their own property to work with...
This unique forest, dune and wetland area is an extension of the rare sand dune ecosystem that is currently protected and managed by the DNR on the Kohler-Andrae State Park property."
Now back to Racine County:

Did I mention that Racine County is flood-prone?

Did I mention that Walker has ignored the climate-change/flooding connection, for years?

Did I mention that dismissal of climate science linked to a freer hand for big business at the expense of the environment and public resources is part of Walker and the business community's pattern and shared agenda?

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce's Tim Sheehy tried hard in remarks to the Journal Sentinel to downplay concerns about the company's adherence to environmental law even though much Wisconsin environmental policy has been waived for Foxconn:
Sheehy said as an international company that supplies electronic giants such as Apple, Foxconn has management systems and standards in place that include substantial environmental controls. 
 “They want to go far beyond command and control,” he said. “In other words ‘here’s your law, we have to comply with it.’ 
For the record, the MMAC was among groups lobbying for the mercifully-failed effort to clear cut, dig up, blow up and other wise fill the Penkoee Hills wetlands during 35 years of toxic open-pit iron mining that would have wrecked the Bad River watershed.
And those stupid wetlands which would have been catalogued and protected if the Foxconn 'book report' were written and adhered to?

Walker's been for filling Wisconsin wetlands since forever.

Seriously. Since his very first Executive order.

And for specific wetland acreage eyed by a donor developer right after Walker was sworn in nearly seven years ago.

So of course now's the right time for the right under Walker to get even busier removing wetland protections - - and offering more take-the-water privileges for mining companies and large ag businesses - -  what with a possible GOP-deflating Wisconsin redistricting being ordered by the US Supreme Court.

In the meantime, what could happen, say, in Racine County, and elsewhere when more wetlands are filled and long-known climate change-induced heavier rain events come our way?

Image result for racine wi flooding images photos

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