Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The June Great Lakes water session in Sheboygan waters itself down

[Originally posted 5/24/19]

All that's missing are opening remarks from Scott Walker.

I'd earlier noted the ironies and contradictions posed in an annual Great Lakes' water preservation and policy session scheduled in Sheboygan June 5th-7th - - the same city where a lakeshore golf course plan in a water-dependent nature preserve - - 

Steve Back photo
- - stirred strong opposition and has been blocked by a judge over wetland filling, water quality issues and planning deficiencies. I need to emphasize that the judge in the case at this level is what is known as an Administrative Law Judge - - in Wisconsin, a non-partisan fact-finder - - and the case will no doubt end up in front of elected judges and our heavily politicized Supreme Court.

But it's important that at the first step, a neutral fact-finder found the permit invalid.

Now a look at the meeting's agenda shows its credibility being further watered down.

* I note in the meeting's Delegate Program Agenda that current US EPA Great Lakes regional official and former Wisconsin DNR climate change censor Cathy Stepp is a speaker on the opening day.

Of course she's a speaker about development - - waterfront commerce, to be specific - - given that her priority running the DNR for Walker was implementing his 'chamber of commerce mentality' directive.

An insult to the DNR's purposes that had not strong local and tribal opposition presented itself, sacred ground, wetlands, clean water and unique hills in North Western Wisconsin would have been excavated for decades of massive open-pit iron ore mining for which Walker and Stepp were cheerleading. 

Just as she also waxed enthusiastic about the Foxconn debacle now unfolding on former ag and wetlands, and backed suspending environmental reviews and regulatory norms for the project.

Perhaps she can highlight this kind of waterfront development devastation for the shoreline next to one of the most scenic vistas on Lake Michigan next to a state park's beaches described in the DNR's environmental impact statement on the golf course which the agency's managers in Sepp's mold ignored when they approved the project's wetland fill permit that is now on hold:
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...
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... 
The site’s nearly 100% forested canopy would be reduced by nearly half...
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.
Stepp, seriously? After designating staff to work closely with the Kohler team to make the eventual wetland permit approval a reality - - and at no cost to the developer?

And after gutting her agency, mocking its mission, deleting scientific information and wishing out loud that she'd preferred managing her McDonald's workers than state agency professionals. 

Details, here.

And do you think Stepp will stay through the session's second morning when a real expert the realities of climate change which I'd discovered she'd stripped from the DNR's website. 
Climate change censors driven by science denial and obeisance to polluters these days at the GOP-managed, Scott Walker-redefined "chamber of commerce mentality" Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are at it again... 
Gone are references to known "human activities" contributing to a warming planet, warming's contributions to changes in rainfall and snowfall patterns, extreme weather events, drought, species and economic losses as a result among other truths whitewashed off this official, taxpayer-financed website.
Chillingly, this entire line - - with its positive message and a call to action - - is now deleted:

The good news is that we can all work to slow climate change and lessen its effects.
As are multiple links to climate change resources, many specific to the Great Lakes materials - - despite the title of the page - - "The Great Lakes and a changing world."
Stepp did all that in response to one conservative writer's suggestion, the Journal Sentinel reported:
The Lakeland Times reported that Wisconsin's environmental protection agency removed information saying humans and greenhouse gases are the main causes of climate change two days after the newspaper raised the issue with Secretary Cathy Stepp...
The DNR updated a web page on the Great Lakes on Dec. 21, saying climate change is a matter of scientific debate, striking sentences attributing global warming to human activities and rising levels of carbon dioxide.
The expert whose session Stepp will probably skip previewed his talk with definitive language - -  "Climate change is causing significant and far-reaching impacts on the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region" - -  and is described in the program this way:
In Conversation with Dr. Don Wuebbles 
Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin and How to Move Forward
Donald J. Wuebbles is the Harry E. Preble Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Illinois and is an expert in atmospheric physics and chemistry. As an award winning, world renowned climate scientist with over 500 scientific publications and research on the Great Lakes, he brings a unique and important perspective to waterfront communities especially surrounding the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. He has co-authored a number of international and national scientific assessments, including several international climate assessments led by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for which IPCC was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He co-led the first volume of the 4th U.S. National Climate Assessment published in November 2017 that assesses the science of climate change, and co-authored Volume II published in November 2018. Dr. Wuebbles worked with 17 scientists and other experts in producing the 2019 Assessment of the Impacts of Climate Change on the Great Lakes.
* And here's something in between tone-deaf 'planning' and in-your-face-disrespecl when the owner of the golf course project which Stepp's DNR greenlit, and which has been blocked by a judge, is the host of the meeting's closing dinner. 

On the Delegate Program Agenda, Kohler Co. is listed as the "Gala sponsor."


Gala Dinner at the American Club (All attendees welcome)

6:00 pm -7:00 pm
Cocktail Hour
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Dinner and Entertainment

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