Tuesday, April 25, 2017

DNR again serves up soft news highlights

I've noted it before, so just for the record the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources again in its weekly news highlights serves up a list of soft features principally related to hunting and fishing
The new Kingsford Flowage boat launch is expected to draw additional visitors to the area thanks to easier access to the local fishery. Environmentally protective features including stormwater collection and infiltration elements were incorporated into the design.
and no updates on clean air or water or big project permit reviews, groundwater pumping, pollution inspections or enforcement actions, etc.

Here's this week's list:

Does Trump think Wisconsin is a border state?

You could read it that way. Either way, his retaliation by slapping tariffs on Canadian timber exports to the US isn't going to help the dairy farmers faced with a May 1 doomsday deadline which also seems off Walker's radar:
  7 hours ago7 hours agoMoreCanada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!
Donald Trump official portrait.jpg

Walker amps up 'East coast values' dog whistle

You were wrong, Bucky, if you thought Walker was hunkered down in Trump-scheduled meeting to save Wisconsin dairy farmers faced with a May 1 doomsday deadline in the state Walker said was "open for business."

Walker was in Nebraska, campaigning for a local conservative and also for himself as he reprised the middle-class busting wage cuts and divisive politics he spread across Wisconsin through Act 10 as just whats needed in Nebraska:

Walker, whose moves to restrict labor unions have made him a polarizing figure nationally, said there’s a clear distinction between Stothert and challenger Heath Mello. The governor came to Omaha in part as a response to last week’s Mello rally with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
With this Walker twist: 
“Do you want Midwest common sense?” Walker asked about 250 attendees. “Or East Coast radical values?”
Memo to Walker: You're inching towards those 'New York values' which backfired so badly on FUBAR GOP US Senator Ted Cruz during the presidential primaries. 

Meanwhile, Trump is sending Wisconsin dairy farmers the message they should go milk trees

Apparently Walker's OK with that now that Ohama is in the rear-view mirror.

Scientists form advocacy group "Wisconsin's Green Fire"

In the face of the Walker administration's coordinated and ideological attack on sound science and conservation in Wisconsin - - long a theme on this blog - - there's a hopeful new development I am happy to share

Dozens of Wisconsin experts have banded together in a non-profit entity together to speak up for science and respect for the land- - 
- - to provide solid, non-partisan information and to offer assistance to groups and local governments with the legacy of the great Wisconsinite conservationist Aldo Leopold as the guiding light:
Under Governor Walker’s administration, budgets have been slashed for Wisconsin State Parks and public lands management, scientific research, the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, and the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board. 
Scientific information on climate change has been scrubbed from Department of Natural Resources communications and restrictions on Department of Natural Resources staff have limited access to science at public hearings...responsible, science-based, long-term management practices are no longer welcome at the table.
In response to these threats, a group of retired and active Wisconsin scientists with experience from a wide range of institutions—including the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the University of Wisconsin, federal natural resource agencies, nonprofit environmental groups, research institutions, and the private sector—have established Wisconsin’s Green Fire...
The group takes its name from one of Aldo Leopold’s essay, “Thinking Like a Mountain”... 
More information about Wisconsin’s Green Fire: Voices for Conservation, a website, and opportunities to join and/or contribute will be available in coming months. For information now, you can contact terryldaulton@gmail.com.

Monday, April 24, 2017

About Paul Ryan's polling plunge...

Though his numbers have cratered - - 
The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll published Monday found that 40 percent of voters have a negative view of the Wisconsin Republican, compared with 22 percent who have a positive view.
Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.
GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan can find comfort in the grading offered by fellow GOP badger Scott Walker for Donald Trump's recent performance:

"You can always do more."

WI highway-building, Walker re-election move to the fore

WI Republican pols are coming home to their core values, so hold your nose.

Under right-wing-one-party-GOP rule, and led by Governor and road-builders' compliant/career campaigning politician Scott Walker, Wisconsin's ruling party is getting ready to put highway construction above clean water, pothole repairs, transit upgrades, health-care expansion, social programs - - and always, always with another shot at the poor, which has been his routine.

As Walker and the Legislature he controls do their dance about 'fixing' the transportation budget he has damaged for years while protecting Walker's 2018 bid for a third term.

And so the 'save-Walker/back slap the road-builders/screw the people' agenda is closer to reality
Gov. Scott Walker on Monday latched onto the possibility of funneling money from the state’s main account toward highways to try to help solve Wisconsin’s road funding woes... 
The general fund is made up of collections from income taxes, sales taxes and a host of other taxes and fees and is used to fund schools, the University of Wisconsin System, health care for the poor and elderly and numerous other programs.
I've been warning about just this scenario:
At risk along with some major highway schedules: local street aids and transit, already underfunded, and social programs which could be raided for dollars turned into concrete. 
No surprise.

County Jail dehydration death should send Sheriff Clarke packing

[Updated thought: Did those seven days coincide with days when Clarke was out on the paid speaking circuit, book tour or campaign trail for Trump? Calling all all Open Records practitioners.] 

The details had been piling up, but this on its own should be the end of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke's disgusting tenure:
Prosecutors: Inmate's water cut off for 7 days before his death in the Milwaukee County Jail

Repeal, replace, recall, whatever

WI over-produces milk; WI producers want more mega-dairies

No doubt you've heard that several dozen modestly-sized Wisconsin dairy farms may have to close and send their herds to the slaughterhouse because Canada has cut back on what it imports from Wisconsin and there is a known over-supply of milk in the state.


* Right-wing GOP WI Gov. and captive of the dairy lobby Scott Walker has been promoting a massive expansion of dairy farming in the state because the bigger the special interest, the more Walker is there to serve.

Like the costly-mega highways he's championed at an unsustainable rate. big is not better. Republicans keep telling us government needs to be run like a business, but so far we know that does not include road construction firms or dairy farms.

* One large and controversial operation in Kewaunee County which recently expanded to 6.500 animals began in 2000 with just 350, the Journal Sentinel reported.

*  There is still a pending and highly-controversial application to build a mega-scale dairy with operations spanning Wood and Portage Counties which would house 5,300 animals and require 33 high-capacity wells - - the very large-capacity ag pumping operations that are draining the water table.
The very kind of high-volume pumping of the people's water which the Wisconsin DNR is waiving through almost universally to private applicants and which GOP Wisconsin legislators and Gov. Walker intend to lock-in through perpetual privatization.

And which the corporately-controlled WI GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel has said cannot be monitored by the state, just as he also opined that the state cannot mandate the size mega-dairy herds regardless of their impact on groundwater, neighbors or downstream waters.

So how many of these big animal-feeding, manure-producing, water-draining operations with dairy operations accounting for most in The Dairy State?

One DNR data base says there are 200 such big feeding centers with current permits and another 93 not currently operating.

Another DNR website shows approximately the same information, though it graphs data ending in July, 2014, as I noted last month:
Some DNR data on CAFOs stuck in 2014
More later. 

On Trump's 100 days, a Walker profundity

A keen observation.

"You can always do more".

I was hoping Walker would reach for something bigger, like, 'If at first you don't succeed, you'll always have Mar-a-Largo.'


Sunday, April 23, 2017

May 1 dairy war deadline looms; whither Trump, Walker, et al?

[Updated] May 1, May Day next Monday is in fact a genuine Mayday! for dozens of modestly-sized dairy farmers in Wisconsin and elsewhere who could lose on that day their regular bulk milk buyer because Canada has begun to protect its home-country dairy business and is cutting back on US imports like those the Wisconsin farmers routinely provided.
Trump promised during his Kenosha visit last week that he and "Scott" [Walker] and "Paul" [Ryan] and presumably also Wisconsin-native and White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus who had a seat on Air Force 1 for the Wisconsin junket would hold some great #MAGA [Make America Great Again] meetings and get things straightened out:
"We're going to get together and we're going to call Canada," Trump said. "And we're going to say, 'What happened?' 
But May 1 is getting awfully close and we see no signs that Canada has realized its mistake and wants to get back in line so our purported Great Deal maker-in-Chief can have the kind of NAFTA he wants without Canada getting in the way or receiving anything in return.

This might have been moved along more quickly if we had a US Ambassador to Canada on the job, or at least-partially staffed State Department, Trade Representative and US Department of Agriculture offices and experts in place, but as Trump told us during his nominating convention, he's the only one that can solve our problems so Wisconsin dairy farmers faced with sending their herds to slaughter May 2nd have to put their faith in our self-declared Maximum Leader.

Update: Other Wisconsin processors may step in, but most of nearly 60 Wisconsin dairy farms facing the May 1 cutoff have yet to find a buyer for their milk.

The problem: oversupply.

And I'm not sure what "Scott's" leverage in all this actually is. The last time we heard Walker open his mouth about Canada it was during the Presidential campaign when he tried to out-trump Trump in the wall-building business by yammering on about putting one across Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific shores.

This specific fight aside, I'd noted in a recent posting the contradiction about ramped-up milk production in Wisconsin for which there may be no market and Walker's plan to expand dairies and their output in Wisconsin:

Walker in 2012 began financing a state plan to boost milk production in the state:
Walker hopes to grow Badger State milk production to 30 billion pounds annually by 2020. The effort to do that has been dubbed "30x20" and is part of the Grow Wisconsin Dairy program.
Walker unveiled his proposal in Madison on March 13. He chose the twentieth annual business conference of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) for his announcement.
That plan, of course, principally which benefits his friends in Big Dairy and the environmentally-damaging/pollution-producing/ground-water-sucking/industrial-scale mega feedlots they operate.

I noted an interesting Canadian media piece based on interviews with Wisconsin dairy farmers which I recommend for perspective as May 1 looms and the bigger picture is getting clearer:

'We don't blame you': Wisconsin farmers on Trump's blast at Canada's dairy industry
With a state-wide oversupply of milk, the dairy industry's problems go well beyond a little trade spat

Help save a Lake Michigan nature preserve

This blog has followed the grassroots level struggle - - or should I say forest-floor-and rare dune-and-wetland-level struggle - - to prevent a 247-acre nature preserve adjoining Kohler Andrae State Park along Lake Michigan from being converted into a high-end golf course.

The controversial proposal has been met with a demand for substantially more information by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Now comes word from Friends of the Black River Forest - - named after the already-impaired waterway that runs through the site - - that a critical Federal review stage approaches, so if you want to get involved, make everyday an Earth Day, read on and follow through in your own words:
Please Take Action Now

Comment to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by May 6
Rare, globally significant ridge and swale wetlands which are protected at the Ridges Sanctuary in Door County and Kenosha will be filled, bulldozed  and covered with foreign material.
Quentin Carpenter, Ph.D. in Land Resources. "Another danger that I see here that if a golf course is allowed this close to the lake, very quickly DNR will receive a request to armor the lakeside to protect it. These are active dunes in a dynamic area of the lake shore. The detrimental effects of armoring on adjacent shorelines are well-documented (more erosion). The neighbors of this shoreline are the residents to the north and the State Park to the south."
USACE PUBLIC NOTICE and Kohler Wetland Permit Application, click here  to view DOCUMENTS

This is the letter FBRF has sent to the Army Corps regarding the Wetland Permit Application:

This is a link t documents sent to the Army Corps of Engineers in addition to our letter.

Suggested Template:

Subject: The Kohler Wetland Permit Application
Comments: I object to the permitting of the Kohler golf course for these reasons: (Be objective, referring to information in the Public Notice or the Wetland Permit Application. This can include what further information you think is needed or what is not mentioned. If you have written the DNR previously assume the USACE has not read your comments to the DNR.
***FBRF will be asking the USACE for a public hearing.

Wetland Gems, Important Bird Area, Ridge and Swale and Interdunal wetlands, Endangered Species
Check out more documents on our website from:
Wisconsin Wetland Accociation,
Wisconsin Socity for Ornithology
Quentin Carpenter - PhD, Land Resources

FBRF will be hiring experts for the review of this permit. We may have to consider litigation if credible scientific information is not the basis of permit reviews.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

DNR Sec. Cathy Stepp marched...climate science off web pages

[Updated with corrected headline]

Scientists worldwide marched Saturday this Earth Day to call attention to science, climate change evidence and research being ignored undercut or ignored by the Trump administration.

Wisconsin's DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp had already marched...climate science right off the agency's taxpayer-financed webpages:
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.
Not content with having already stripped content and links from an agency webpage about climate change - - deletions I documented some years ago and which I have frequently referenced - - the ideologues intent on scrubbing science off these pages and sowing doubt and confusion about the consensus view of experts worldwide about climate change have edited, deleted and otherwise compressed to whitewash long-standing concepts and facts off a climate change page about the Great Lakes...
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp proudly shows off her first deer, taken opening weekend last year. In the upcoming TV Special "Deer Hunt Wisconsin 2012, Stepp urges male hunters to take more girls and women hunting. "The secret's out," she says. "Hunting is a lot of fun, so don't keep it to yourselves."  photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR
And defended her actions:
In an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, DNR secretary Cathy Stepp said she believes there is substantial scientific disagreement on the cause of climate change, and that it “doesn’t matter” if her view contradicts the vast majority of scientists in that field...
While insisting that her personal view wasn’t relevant, Stepp said she believes there is still a significant scientific debate about the cause of climate change.
“I’ve read competing pieces so, yes, I would say there is debate out there,” Stepp said.
Stepp also said her actions put the agency in line with the Governor who appointed her - - right-wing Republican and fellow science opponent Scott Walker.

Walker has deeply cut DNR science staffing, and Republican State GOP Senator Tom Tiffany, a principal water-carrier for the proposed open pit iron mine which failed because there was too much water in the watershed ticketed for destruction said he asked Walker to get rid of DNR positions filled by scientists who applied climate science to their work.

Walker complied.

And, as predicted, has said nothing about today being Earth Day.

So we thank the marchers everywhere for calling attention to the climate science and valued research that Walker, Stepp and corporately-controlled Wisconsin State Legislators hide and deny.

How Walker leaves WI with more years of potholes, deficits

In the short-term, Wisconsin's roads and road budgets are a mess.

Long-term - - expect more of the same.

So while right-wing WI GOP Gov. and road-builders'-enabler-at-all-costs Scott Walker is trying to keep the crumbling roads and under-funded transportation budget patched through the 2018 election, let's take a deeper view here.

So, yes, it's no secret that Wisconsin's rutted roads are crumbling (second-worst in the nation).

And, yes, there's been much reporting of late about how Walker plans to address some of the issues by delaying completing one Milwaukee-area mega-project - - the Zoo Interchange (producing a temporary savings of $292 million).

But remember:

When Walker was Milwaukee County Executive in 2003 - - and with his first (and unsuccessful) run for Governor not too far in the future but with messages being sent to the road-builder lobby - - Walker made the key motion to add 19 more miles of costly new lanes in Milwaukee County that neither the Milwaukee Common Council or Milwaukee County Board supported.

Which ran the total projected cost - - much of which is at the heart of today's dilemmas - - up to $6.23 billion.

Details about all that, here.

How many of you recall that as Walker set the current transportation mess into motion, his only worry was that recommending the spending of $6.23 billion down the road might be insufficient!

“I believe that you have to have … a transportation plan that meets our needs,” said Walker, adding that SEWRPC’s $6.2 billion plan may not be foresighted enough. 
Some key numbers, as we move along:

*  Note that the Zoo Interchange project represents a mere 20% or so at $1.7 billion of the massive Southeastern Wisconsin Freeway [free?] reconstruction plan's projected cost in 2003 dollars of $6.23 million (full description as recommended by the regional planning commission, here).

*  That regional plan which Walker said might need even more elements calls for adding 127 mile lanes to the existing 270 which stretch across seven counties - - a 47% increase in lane miles - -  and is the major reason that transportation needs statewide, from local repairs to additional new projects to transit systems ignored, are chronically underfunded and will continue that way for years unless the entire transportation system is redefined.

Which is unlikely.

So, more math:

*  The $6.23 billion regional plan began with the Marquette Interchange reconstruction and expansion - - completed at a cost of $800 million.

*  $1.7 billion is committed to the Zoo - - and now with delays projected.

*  $1.65 billion is committed to I-94 north/south from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line - - with long-running delays that are the source of GOP Racine County State Rep. and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' continuing meltdown.

*  The $1 billion stretch of I-94 East/West connecting the Zoo and Marquette Interchanges is supposed to be up next, but is stalled as much for a lack of cash on hand and as intense local objections and geographical/construction complications.

So in rough round numbers, we're looking at $5+ billion spent or committed - - or about 80% of the estimated revenues needed for all SE WI 'freeway' segments - - though the dollars to complete them are not in hand and new state revenues or Trump infrastructure contributions to get the jobs done may or may not appear.

I'm aware that some of the completed or now-delayed segments came in under budget, or have been reduced in projected cost, but I'm also aware that the final cost of the Marquette Interchange was lowered by simply trimming the footprint of the segment - - thus pushing more costs into segments not yet built - - so I'm sticking with the original $6.23 billion price tag.

Anyway - there are several huge SE regional plan segments yet to begin or be funded.

We have been told for years that whole plan across all seven counties is one integrated program.

That all segments connect and prop each other up to make the entire machine move traffic, but with only modest congestion improvements (and note also that no new transit dollars which could also reduce traffic congestion are included concrete-only segments get funded), including:

*  I-43 south from Milwaukee, across Waukesha County and across Walworth County, to the Illinois state line.

*  I 43 north from Milwaukee, across Ozaukee County, to the Sheboygan County line.

*  I-94 west from the Zoo Interchange, across Waukesha County, to the Jefferson County line.

New lanes. Wider ramps. 'Improvements' to some connections roads, as is evident in the scope of what is called the Zoo Interchange beyond merely I-94. Property to be acquired - - all of which costs money.

Anyone think all that work can be done for the roughly uncommitted $1.1-2 billion of the original $6.23 regional system's expansion and rebuilding price tag?

And remember - - there are multiple transportation needs statewide, from big projects to local pothole repairs - - that have to be addressed far, far from the SE Wisconsin seven-county extravaganza.

Walker, his road-builder friends and Legislative enablers began to leave the bills for future generations when they recommended through an unelected regional planning body working on and adding 127 more lanes to the entire SE Wisconsin major highway grid.

But left the financing details to others.

Politically these big spenders should be made to own it, but you know that the rest of us and our children and their children will end up covering their tab long after Walker has left the scene for an ambassadorship or Deputy Secretary of Something or a right-wing think tank chair or rightist advocacy group's soft landing.