Monday, February 19, 2018

Official WI report helps explain Walker's environmental disregard

I often highlight the connections between Walker's politics and our state's degraded environment, but I never thought I'd get even an unintended assist from a major state report.

Until now.

Consider what the state highlights under "Major Initiatives" in the early pages of its latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017 released by Walker's Department of Administration on February 13:

*  Note, for example, that on page 6 the report brags that Wisconsin's dairy output keeps growing: 

At the end of 2017, Wisconsin was home to about 8,800 dairy farms with almost 1.28 million cows. Wisconsin's milk production continues to grow as the dairy farms in the state yielded more than 30 billion pounds of milk in 2016.
So...if the state knows that these manure-producing, groundwater contaminating operations are expanding - - and the DNR right now lists for you pending permit actions that go on and on and on and on... - - , why did the DNR fail to follow its own water pollution inspection rules 94% of the time, and why is the DNR speeding up the permitting process for big dairy operations known as CAFOs while also allowing one-third of Wisconsin CAFOs to operate on expired permits

Isn't that inviting more well water contamination in rural area, or high-profile runoff events, like this March spill in Brown County?
The Wisconsin DNR says nearly 100,000 gallons of manure spilled at a farm in Brown County Monday. The manure flowed 3.5 miles reaching the Luxemburg Road crossing and into School Creek...
Officials advise the public that the water in the creek may not be safe for people or animals and says the groundwater may be at risk as well.
*  Which leads me to this section on page 8 of the report, and again under Major Initiatives: annual state spending on acquisition of land for the public's benefit during the Walker years has been cut to $33 million from $86 million, a drop of 62%. 
The original Stewardship Program committed $250 million through the sale of general obligation bonds and the use of federal grant monies for various resource development and land protection activities, including acquisition of State park lands, protection of urban rivers and assistance to local parks. 
The program was reauthorized in 2007 Wisconsin Act 20 through Fiscal Year 2020 with an annual bonding authority of $86 million beginning in Fiscal Year 2011. The 2011-13 Biennial Budget subsequently reduced the annual bonding authority to $60 million beginning in Fiscal Year 2012. Under 2013 Wisconsin Act 20, the annual bonding authorization was reduced further to $47.5 million in Fiscal Year 2014 and $54.5 million in Fiscal Year 2015. 
Finally, under 2015 Wisconsin Act 55, the annual authorization was reduced to $33.3 million in Fiscal Years 2016 through 2020.
Maybe there would not have been the addition of hundreds of state waterways  to the official 'impaired' list as documented by the DNR - - and posted here - - during Walker's years in office if more Stewardship funding had been made available for river protection.

A situation bound to get worse worse when the Legislature fully opens the wetlands-filling door statewide which Walker unlocked for Foxconn in flood-prone Racine County.

There won't be a "Major Initiative" in the Wisconsin Comprehensive Annual Fiscal Statement about the successful coordination of CAFO oversight with better groundwater protections with cleaner waterways with public land benefits until Walker and his 'chamber of commerce mentality' governance is booted from the Wisconsin political environment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What is happening to the groundwater is sort of a perfect storm of bad decisions. The ethanol mandate resulted in many hundreds of thousands of acres of land being taken out of the Conservation Reserve Program so people could grow corn which became very profitable. The Corn Growers Association is a big supporter of the ethanol mandate so we probably will continue that in WI. Growing all that corn requires a lot of nutrients, either commercial or manure. Manure is free if you have animals and dairy cows produce the most manure so...

The Diary industry promoted the idea of the 30 X 20 program which set a goal of increasing milk production to 30 billion pounds of milk by 2020. The grant program helped farmers meet this goal early but small farms did not benefit in any meaningful way from these grants. Since March 2012 when 30 x 20 started, WI has lost 2400 dairy farms but number of cows is the same and production has increased. This means fewer farmers with more cows, producing more milk. More manure in one place means that manure has to be managed by trucking it further and further away if you don't want to smother your crops. If you don't have the land base, you still have to get rid of the manure.

Wisconsin has a lot of water. Ground water and surface water. More than other states with the possible exception of Minnesota and Michigan. It is everywhere and it is vulnerable to pollution. Runoff from fields goes to surface water, excess nutrients infiltrate to groundwater. There is no way to protect Wisconsin's water if the ethanol mandate stays and if we continue to allow large concentrations of cows on limited land.