Monday, March 25, 2019

Kohler project permit reversal raises DNR process questions

Suppose your surgeon told you the hospital's operating team had approved your brain surgery even though some of your brain scans weren't in hand yet and some of your lab work included some inaccurate material.

Wouldn't your first question be 'why has the surgery been approved?,' followed by 'and 'this is a process?'

That's pretty much the way you can read a Wisconsin judge's ruling which reversed the WI DNR's wetland-filling permit approval for the proposed Kohler golf course in a nature preserve with rare features. 

And not just because the project would level more than 100 acres of trees,


destroy wildlife habitat, lay down pesticides and herbicides in a sensitive environment,  and even bulldoze publicly-owned acreage within an adjoining state park for private construction, storage and other non-park purposes - - because those kinds of negative consequences had been called out by the state park's recently-retired career superintendent, and also had been enumerated by the DNR itself and published earlier.
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...
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.
What Administrative Law Judge Mark F. Kaiser found and disclosed in his ruling on the golf course wetland filling permit - - the decision in pdf format is here and definitely worth a read - - was that the DNR approved the permit knowing it did not have all the relevant or accurate information it had requested from the developer to make an informed permit ruling - - and made the approval decision anyway.

See p. 20 for detail, and this statement by the judge:

"The process has been long but it was still incomplete at the time the Department closed the application process.
And see p. 25, "CONCLUSIONS OF LAW," where the judge states that the Department erred in issuing the permit. 

Very similar to a ruling last year in a separate case where the DNR had approved a wetland filling permit to move along a sand mining project.
In January 2018, Midwest Environmental Advocates intervened in an administrative challenge to the state wetland permit issued to Meteor Timber, and we appeared on behalf of the Ho-Chunk Nation at a hearing on the permit. An Administrative Law Judge ruled in favor of the Ho-Chunk, MEA and Clean Wisconsin by invalidating the Meteor Timber permit.
So the question is:

What kind of processes are these from the DNR - - a public health, clean water and resource protection agency - - whose mission statement begins this way:
To protect and enhance our natural resources: our air, land and water;our wildlife, fish and forests and the ecosystems that sustain all life.
I'll answer my own 'what kind of process was that...?' 

It was SOP in a DNR whose mission was redefined from resource protection to chamber of commerce promotion.


Anonymous said...

This is what you get when you have the GOPees is charge!

Massive stupidity and cupidity.

Unknown said...

Only three months in and Governor Tony Evers has created a gas tax for unnecessary new road construction.


BUT unfortunately Evers has failed to distinguish between allocating monies for much needed road repairs throughout the state and DOT pork barrel spending projects for unnecessary four lane highway expansion (such as Hwy 23, which was resurfaced by Walker last year and which now by Evers begins new road construction next week for an additional $175 million)...when DOT traffic volume counts and safety records do NOT justify their expansion!!!

When it comes to wasted taxpayer money for new road construction, Evers has so far performed worse than Walker!

Shame on Govenor Tony Evers for not being better educated and informed on this issue; its environmental impact and wasteful use of of our state's natural resources..., which greatly contribute to global warming.

One can call it many things, pandering to his base in Sheboygan County where he is from, but ultimately, it's irresponsible.