Friday, October 26, 2018

Walker's 8-year war on Wisconsin's environment. Part 16. Polluted waterways skyrocket.

This is Part 16 of a 21-installment series about Walker's attack on the environment. The series will conclude before the election in Nov. 6th. Each part has at the end a link to the previous day's installment.

You may remember that as he laid the groundwork for one of the most clumsy and short-lived presidential runs in recent American history - - and I would argue a misstep that continues to cascade and erase what smidgen of credibility he still had as a 'Wisconsin-first-and-forever politician - - Scott Walker encountered a seven-year-old brought to a political convention who wanted to know what Walker would do as President about climate change.

Video, here, as the child hears Walker say that he learned as a Boy Scout to  leave your campsite cleaner than it was when when you found.

For the boy, an early lesson in politicians' spin. If he had ever believed that public officials were smart, serious, special people, Walker disabused him of that quaint fable at an age when most kids still believe in Santa Claus.

And for Walker, it was a moment of inane condescension that unwittingly helped unmask and nail down his contempt for honest dialogue and the environment, because if there's one thing Walker has done with the Wisconsin landscape as Governor, it's leaving it far more degraded that it was when he took office.

Which is basically what this entire blog series these past 14 installments have been all about, along with earlier items and summaries, like this:

In Walker's dirtied up WI, an end to coincidence
But let's look at just one area - - the state's precious, life-giving waterways - - to see how far from removed Walker is from his Boy Scout training. 

What does the official data show, culled from reports the DNR posted on its website and filed with the federal government?

There are now twice the number of polluted lakes, rivers and streams in Wisconsin, and the principals culprit is algae-promoting phosphorous being released with greater ease after Walker led the effort to roll back phosphorous-dumping restrictions.
Waterway pollution skyrockets in Wisconsin during Walker, GOP reign
As you read the excerpts below I've copied out from the post above, ask yourself: does this sound like a state managed to keep things cleaner than it had been, or a state managed with a deliberate 'chamber of commerce mentality,' with consequences for the public good be damned?
*  Here is a link to the official DNR impaired waterways 2012 list, which covers the last year of the Jim Doyle administration and the first year of Walker's, and text from the DNR's  summary: 
Every two years, Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states to publish a list of all waters that are not meeting water quality standards. The existing Impaired Waters List includes more than 700 rivers, streams and lakes. In the 2012 list, updates include 147 new waters to the list. Twenty-eight waters were delisted, including three streams that have been successfully restored: German Valley Branch in Dane County and Eagle and Joos Valley Creeks in Buffalo County.
 Here is the DNR link to the 2014 list. Again, the trends were not good:
In the 2014 list update, DNR added 192 new waters. A majority of the listing additions were waters that exceed total phosphorus criteria. A significant number of new listings were also based on poor biological condition. Read more about specific restorations and/or search and learn about Wisconsin’s impaired waters with the Impaired Waters Search Tool. [How to use the Search Tool]
Using the search tool, I count 23 deletions.

 More lopsided data on the DNR list for 2016 in favor of pollution: 
In the proposed 2016 list update, DNR proposes to add 225 new waters. A majority of the listing additions were waters that exceed total phosphorus criteria. A significant number of new listings were also based on poor biological condition. Ten waterbodies are proposed to be delisted.
*  Same story in the 2018 list
In the proposed 2018 list update, DNR proposes to add 240 new water segments. A majority of the listing additions were waters that exceed total phosphorus criteria. Thirty-five water bodies are proposed to be delisted. 
So allowing for some portion of the total to have taken place in one year of the Doyle era, and also allowing for some late changes, the cumulative numbers in these reports which encompass most of Walker's tenure show the addition of 804 newly listed polluted waterways to the "more than 700" cited in 2012.

The additions, 804, outpaced deletions, 96, by a ratio of more than eight-to-one, and leaves Walker with about double what he inherited.

Impaired waters in Wisconsin are affected by a variety of pollutants. The top three are: mercury, total phosphorus and sediment... 
Note that mercury contamination is clustered heavily in 146 Northern Wisconsin waterways that are under consumption restrictions.
While natural erosion produces nearly 30 percent of the total sediment in the United States, erosion from human use of land accounts for the remaining 70 percent. In agricultural watersheds, the most significant source of sediment is tilled fields....Improperly managed construction sites also contribute significant amounts of sediment to local waterways; up to 25 times that of agricultural lands (Chesters, 1979) and 2,000 times that of forested lands (EPA 833–F–00–008, R 12/2005 [PDF exit DNR])... 
Phosphorus has long been recognized as the controlling factor in plant and algae growth in Wisconsin lakes and streams. Small increases in phosphorus can fuel substantial increases in aquatic plant and algae growth, which in turn can reduce recreational use, property values and public health.
  • Many lakes and streams are listed as impaired due to phosphorus pollution or sediment, decreasing their recreational value and economic impact.
  • Dozens of waters statewide experience harmful algal blooms fueled by the nutrient and last year, 35 people in Wisconsin reported human health concerns and the death of at least two dogs due to blue–green algae.
  • Department of Health Services Blue–Green Algae [exit DNR]
  • Smelly cladophora fueled by phosphorus washes ashore Lake Michigan beaches. 
  • Recent statewide stream assessment data suggests that thousands of streams may have excess phosphorus levels. In addition to decreasing the dissolved oxygen that fish and other aquatic creatures need to survive, such excess phosphorus causes major changes in lake and stream food webs, which ultimately result in fewer fish and fish predators.

And the kicker? 

The DNR made one revision to its impaired waters lists earlier in 2018 because it found two more.

And don't forget that Walker has been leading the charge to fill wetlands and remove shoreline building restrictions, thus exposing more waterways to runoff contamination, since his first day in office.

Part 15 of this series ran Thursday, October 25th, 2018.

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