Monday, October 22, 2018

Walker's 8-year war on Wisconsin's environment: Part 10. Kohler's golf course.

This 21-part retrospective series I'd promised will run with daily updates, ending prior to the Nov. 6 election. This is Part 10 and ties together Walker's disdain for the environment with his agencies serving Walker donors and Republican interests.

Few projects with the exception of Foxconn which have the blessing of Walker's 'chamber of commerce mentality DNR and other taxpayer-funded public agencies - - the AG's office, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, which is supposed to give independent oversight guidance to the DNR, local officials and annexation officials at the state DOA - - have outweighed the state's disregard for the the environment and fair play than the Kohler golf course proposed adjacent to and grabbing acreage inside a popular state park.

I've visited the site, publicized the opposition organized by Friends of the Black River Forest, and written about it often since 2014.


And put it into a larger context often, including, here
...the state has 700 impaired waterways by the agency's own count and in 2014 added dozens more to the list; paradoxically, the DNR is currently reviewing whether a major Walker donor can build an 18-hole golf course on 247 acres of forested, wetland-laden land at the edge of Lake Michigan near Sheboygan through which runs The Black River, one of those impaired waterways. 
Opponents of the project's groundwater demands, deforestation, and planned incursion into an adjoining state park recently told the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board - - to which the DNR reports - - that test wells were drilled on the site without permits, among other concerns.
See and hear the opponents' ten-minute presentation beginning at the meeting's 2:21 mark, followed by about five minutes of Q & A.
Here is one early post about the developer's donations to Walker's campaign, and something of a more recent summary, below.

And I try to remind people that the Black River which runs through site's current 247-acre nature preserve, and Lake Michigan literally yards to the east, are public trust waters which the DNR is obligated to manage for the people so they are not lost as public resources, as the State Supreme Court has warned.

And ditto for the adjoining park:

By the way, that's your park, too

From which state agencies have said the golf course can have dedicated acreage for a road, parking, and a building in which chemicals and vehicles can he stored.

A move roundly criticized by the park's former, longtime Superintendent - - but Team Walker has bulldozed science, informed observation along with the trees, wetlands, wildlife habitat in project and project since Walker took over. 

Below is information from a September, 2018 summary post:
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I have been reporting on the golf course plan and its opposition by the grassroots organization Friends of the Black River Forest since 2014.

Here is one post with a view of the state park land ticketed for private bulldozing and use,

and another post which included sections of the project's environmental impact statement, which I will also copy out, here.

*  Page 36: Much of the 247-acre Kohler parcel currently includes forested habitat. The golf course design would remove approximately 100 to 120 acres of forested land cover. Forested land and specimen trees will remain as part of the design located predominantly between golf course features. Opening up blocks of forested land will result in greater potential for windthrow and wind damage to the remaining trees.


*  Page 50: The Kohler Property is almost 100 percent contiguous forest. Up to 50 percent of the forest would be removed if the proposed project is constructed. The remaining fragmented forest would provide some habitat during songbird migration. Invasive species management and restoration of native trees and shrubs in invasive removal areas would help control exotic and invasive species in the retained forest. The forest edge along turfgrass and human use areas created from fragmentation of the forest would probably increase the challenge of exotic and invasive species management. 


The edge would likely provide some habitat for species that inhabit transitions between forest and openings. Habitat value would likely be diminished. 


Tree clearing would occur on the Property for each hole, the access road, the clubhouse/parking lot complex, the practice range, the maintenance facility, the restrooms, and the irrigation pond. Tree clearing may also occur in forested areas between tee and fairways to provide lines of sight. Interior forest bird nesting habitat is likely present within and adjacent to the Project boundary and would essentially be eliminated. Wildlife species inhabiting these areas would be permanently impacted by the loss of habitat. 


However, impact to these species is not expected to create a significant effect on regional populations.


*  Page 63: Kohler has stated that the lakeshore and associated dune habitats are essential to the natural and minimalistic golf course design.


Some trees bordering the beach would be removed, allowing longer sight lines between the Project and Lake Michigan. Trees present in dune habitat that is utilized by a rare species may not be able to be removed unless additional authorizations are obtained (i.e., an incidental take permit). Additionally, the number and area of trees removed would have to be reviewed to determine the potential impacts on the beach/dune community. 

*  Pages 69-70:

Summary of Adverse Impacts That Cannot Be Avoided
The site’s nearly 100% forested canopy would be reduced by nearly half. Habitat value will diminish along forest edges near turf grass and human use areas.

Approximately 3.7 acres of wetland would be lost due to filling including impacts to approximately 1.36 acres of Great Lakes ridge and swale wetlands, a wetland type that is considered “imperiled” in Wisconsin. Additional wetland impacts resulting from alterations to wetland hydrology and the influence of increased nutrients could change the wetland type and allow encroachment of invasive species.

Reduction of the forest to 50 percent cover would result in a substantial reduction of available migratory bird stopover habitat on the Kohler Property. Interior forest bird nesting habitat is likely present within and adjacent to the Project boundary and would essentially be eliminated...

Short term adverse impacts that cannot be avoided include approximately two years of construction traffic, noise, and dust. Hikers on the Black River Trail near the Black River would be the Kohler-Andrae patrons most likely to notice construction noise and changed aesthetics...

It is unknown to what extent storm water infiltration and nutrient and pesticide applications to fairways, tees and greens (for either establishment or maintenance) would impact groundwater quality in this permeable soil and shallow water table environment.

Part 9 of this series was published Sunday, October 21, 2018

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