Saturday , 18 November 2017

January 18, 2017 E-News

DNR’S CATHY STEPP SAYS A LAW ON WATER USE WOULD HELP – Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp said the agency could be taken out of the middle of the state’s battle over well water if the Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker were to enact a law this session on high-capacity wells. Elected officials have been unable to agree on how to regulate the contentious issue. The agriculture and food-processing industries have demanded more water, but in some areas lakes and streams have dried up, raising the ire of waterfront property owners and conservationists. For years, the issue has been the DNR’s legal authority to consider the cumulative impact of all high-capacity wells that affect an area’s aquifer when deciding on a new well permit. In June, an attorney general’s opinion prompted the DNR to start issuing permits without taking cumulative impact into account and without imposing water monitoring requirements on well operators.

POSITION CUTS, MISSION SHIFT LEAD TO SCALED-BACK DNR – Gov. Scott Walker promised to transform the state Department of Natural Resources. And he has, cutting scientists, shrinking its budget and pushing the agency to be more receptive to industry. And even more changes could be in store. Walker and Republican lawmakers, who hold their largest majorities in decades, are pondering whether to eliminate the agency and spread its duties across state government as well as charge people more to get into state parks and to hunt. It all adds up to a picture of a struggling agency no one recognizes any more, critics say. “They want this chamber of commerce mentality,” said Scott Hassett, who served as DNR secretary under former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. “That’s a different image than protector of natural resources. It’s sad.” Agency officials and the Walker administration counter that the DNR is doing fine, carrying out its mission to protect the environment and enhance resources while becoming more customer-friendly. Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the DNR has become “more efficient, effective, transparent, and accountable” since Walker took office.

TIMBER COMPANY SAYS THAT BUILDING FRAC SAND FACILITY IS THE ONLY WAY TO STOP CLEAR CUTTING – A Georgia investment company seeking to build a Monroe County frac sand terminal says if it isn’t allowed to fill 16 acres of pristine wetland forest, the current landowner will clear cut the land to pay off previous wetland violations. Meteor Timber, one of the largest private landowners in Wisconsin, wants to build a processing and loading facility along Interstate 94 near the town of Millston to dry and ship frac sand the company will mine from a nearby site it acquired in 2014. The company expects to ship about 1.5 million tons of processed sand each year using the adjacent Union Pacific rail line. Meteor applied in March to the Corps of Engineers and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for permission to fill about 16 acres of wetlands, including about 13 acres of “pristine” hardwood swamp. Both agencies have requested additional information, including an explanation for why Meteor could not find another site.

WHEEL TAX IN THE NEWSBaraboo residents will be asked whether they’re willing to pay a $20 fee to help the city keep up with road repairs. On Tuesday, the City Council discussed a proposal to implement a “wheel tax,” a vehicle registration fee that would help pay for street work. The council’s public safety committee has discussed the idea for several months, and sought broader feedback.  The way the City of Green Bay goes about approving and paying for street improvements could change. A few city council members believe a wheel tax may be the best option. Council members have tasked the Public Works Department to gather more information.  The Oshkosh Common Council will postpone discussion of a citywide wheel tax, likely until after Wisconsin passes its state budget this summer, councilors decided Tuesday. With state funding through Wisconsin’s 2017-19 biennial budget still uncertain, it makes sense to wait until after the state Legislature passes the budget to begin exploring such a vehicle registration fee, Councilor Tom Pech Jr. said during Tuesday’s meeting.

NORTHERN WISCONSIN LAWMAKER WANTS TO REPEAL MINING MORATORIUM LAW – One northern Wisconsin lawmaker would like to repeal the state’s mining moratorium law. Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, said he expects to introduce a bill this session. The mining moratorium law was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1998. It requires companies to prove a sulfide mine can run for 10 years and be closed for 10 years without polluting groundwater and surface waters from acid drainage. Sen. Tiffany said the Flambeau copper mine near Ladysmith is an example that a sulfide mine can operate safely. “The Flambeau mine wasn’t open for 10 years, but it was run successfully. But, what I hear from constituents is the main thing they’re concerned about is … they want to make sure there is not environmental degradation in the future,” Tiffany said. “The Flambeau mine clearly has met that standard. As a result, I think the law has largely become moot at this point.”

ANTI-MINE GROUP TURNS ATTENTION TO ENBRIDGE PIPELINES – A group that initially formed to battle against a proposed taconite iron ore mine and processing plant in northern Wisconsin is turning its attention to oil and gas pipelines. The Penokee Hills Education Project is re-engaging “to raise public awareness and get more information about” Enbridge Energy pipelines that run across northern Wisconsin from a major oil terminal in Superior into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The group hopes to hold public meetings in coming months to learn about pipeline safety, potential oil spill response measures and to find out about Enbridge plans to replace or add pipelines in the corridor that roughly parallels U.S. Highway 2 across the northern counties of Wisconsin.

QUOTE – “Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.” – Oscar Ameringer

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David Lawrence
WRWA Executive Director
(715) 344-7778

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