Thursday, October 11, 2018

On Nov. 6th, trust candidates pledged to honor WI's public waters trust

Here's the easiest and most defensible Wisconsin Nov. 6th election strategy imaginable.

Make it a statewide referendum on water rights.

Put your trust in officials who will pledge to uphold your legal rights to clean water which have been under eight years of GOP-coordinated special interest assault.

Citizen rights to clean, accessible and enjoyable water are written into the state constitution, and have been upheld by the courts, but have been ignored or overridden for private and partisan gain in part because people are unaware of the guarantees fundamental to a democracy, healthy citizenry and attractive, viable environment.

With so many recent hits to water quality and water access enabled by Wisconsin GOP officials for special interests - - whether it be the special environmental review exemptions, wetland, lake bed filling permissions or unjustifiable Lake Michigan diversion for Foxconn, or wetland-filling and fertilizer runoff being contested after DNR permit approvals for the Kohler golf course in Sheboygan, or massive sand mine contamination of the Trempealeau River brushed off by the DNR, or any of the donor-friendly-well water over-pumping permissions or officially-tolerated groundwater contamination near CAFOs from Kewaunee County to the Central Sands - - it's important to remember just what these state officials are giving away or dismissing:

The guarantee of access to clean water written into the Wisconsin State Constitution and affirmed by case law and assigned to the DNR as its obligation.

Look no further that the DNR's webpage on the matter, which I will copy out below in full just in case someone hits the delete key there, as happened with climate change information:

The public trust doctrine

Wisconsin's Waters Belong to Everyone

Wisconsin lakes and rivers are public resources, owned in common by all Wisconsin citizens under the state's Public Trust Doctrine. Based on the state constitution, this doctrine has been further defined by case law and statute. It declares that all navigable waters are "common highways and forever free", and held in trust by the Department of Natural Resources. 

Assures Public Rights in Waters
Wisconsin citizens have pursued legal and legislative action to clarify or change how this body of law is interpreted and implemented.
Watch how their efforts have benefitted all Wisconsinites in this series of videos.
"Champions of the Public Trust" - Part 1 [YouTube VIDEO length: 11:01]
"Champions of the Public Trust" - Part 2 [YouTube VIDEO length: 6:30]
"Champions of the Public Trust" - Part 3 [YouTube VIDEO length: 11:01]
As a result, the public interest, once primarily interpreted to protect public rights to transportation on navigable waters, has been broadened to include protected public rights to water quality and quantity, recreational activities, and scenic beauty.(1) 
All Wisconsin citizens have the right to boat, fish, hunt, ice skate, and swim on navigable waters, as well as enjoy the natural scenic beauty of navigable waters, and enjoy the quality and quantity of water that supports those uses.(2)
Wisconsin law recognizes that owners of lands bordering lakes and rivers - "riparian" owners - hold rights in the water next to their property. These riparian rights include the use of the shoreline, reasonable use of the water, and a right to access the water. However, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court has ruled that when conflicts occur between the rights of riparian owners and public rights, the public's rights are primary and the riparian owner's secondary.(1)
What are Wisconsin's stream and lake access laws?
Wisconsin's Public Trust Doctrine requires the state to intervene to protect public rights in the commercial or recreational use of navigable waters. The DNR, as the state agent charged with this responsibility, can do so through permitting requirements for water projects, through court action to stop nuisances in navigable waters, and through statutes authorizing local zoning ordinances that limit development along navigable waterways.
The court has ruled that DNR staff, when they review projects that could impact Wisconsin lakes and rivers, must consider the cumulative impacts of individual projects in their decisions. "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 State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC.(2)
Sources: (1) Quick, John. 1994. The Public Trust Doctrine in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1. 
(2) "Champions of the Public Trust, A History of Water Use in Wisconsin" study guide. 1995. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Water Regulation and Zoning. Champions of the Public Trust [PDF].

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