Wisconsin’s Water belongs to everyone
We must make sure that there is vigilant research and investigation of any efforts that result in draining, diverting or contaminating our fresh water — whether our water comes from a lake or the ground.
The "public trust doctrine" published on the Department of Natural Resources web site states, “Wisconsin lakes and rivers are public resources, owned in common by all Wisconsin citizens under the state's Public Trust Doctrine. Based on the state constitution, this doctrine has been further defined by case law and statute. It declares that all navigable waters are "common highways and forever free", and held in trust by the Department of Natural Resources.” [Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources]
Public water — above or below ground needs to stay out of private hands!
It is ironic that the Walker administration is allowing water degradation at the same time we are harnessing cooperative efforts to become the world’s go-to source of water focused research, products and services.
Wisconsin has an enormous opportunity to be a leader in the Great Lakes Basin Compact, the School of Freshwater Sciences and the Great Lakes Water Institute to protect our fresh water resource, create jobs through water research and education and be stewards of the ground water that enters the rivers and streams of the Great Lakes watershed.
So what are some of the potential threats to our drinking water?
LACK OF EFFECTIVE ENFORCEMENT
According to the non-partisan Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters:
Since Governor Scott Walker took office and appointed new leadership at the Department of Natural Resources, illegal polluters are being let off the hook when they violate the law.
First, fewer polluters are getting caught. Enforcement actions, the unofficial 'warning' against illegal polluters, dropped 55%, from an average of 516 notices per year to just 233. As if that weren’t bad enough, the few polluters that are being caught are getting off scot-free, without having to pay any penalties. There has been an astounding 68% drop in the number of cases against illegal polluters referred for prosecution to the Department of Justice (the average dropped from 65 referrals to just 21).
In short: Fewer polluters are getting caught, and more of the polluters who are caught are getting off the hook. For those of us who live, work, and play in Wisconsin, it means we are being exposed to more pollution from CAFOs, frac sand mines, and other industrial operations.
We can’t afford to allow polluters to run roughshod over the health and future of our families. Demand that Wisconsin’s conservation laws be enforced!
To protect the health of our water, our air and our families, Governor Walker must:
- Require that the DNR vigorously enforce current air, water, and public health laws.
- Provide the DNR with the necessary funding and staffing to identify and stop illegal pollution problems as soon as possible.
- Allow local communities to establish stronger environmental standards and practices where they see fit.
The fact that Governor Walker and his administration have been unwilling to enforce our conservation protections signals to polluters that there won’t be repercussions for bad actors. Polluters are reveling in the lack of accountability – and they are doing the math. They know it will be more cost effective to violate their permits because there will be few or no consequences.
How the Gogebic Taconite Mine Could Affect our Water
If you have never been to the area near Copper Falls State Park, the site of the new Gogebic Taconite Mine, you have missed a beautiful part of Wisconsin. If you have never been to the shores of Lake Superior, which is also nearby, you have really missed a special place. There was such a bitter fight over allowing this mine to be developed on land because the area is not only important for the Bad River watershed but also sacred to and home to the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Some very disturbing events have occurred involving requests and actions of this out-of-state mining company such as requesting that the 3600 acre public forest land be closed to the public for up to 18 months. Unknown until the media exposed it, they had hired out-of-state armed security guards brandishing automatic assault weapons to prevent any onlookers from seeing their activities.
For more information on taconite mining in Wisconsin please check out the following website:
Wisconsin John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club (http://www.wisconsin.sierraclub.org/Penokeemine.asp)
Look at the track record of this type of mining:
Examine the track record of this type of mining (pdf).
See how residents of the area think about the mine:
See Grassroots North Shore articles on this topic.
- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' research bureau has produced a report discussing a range of scientific issues the DNR will need to consider as it prepares to evaluate the mining application from Gogebic Taconite for the proposed open pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin. According to an article in the Wisconsin State Journal, among the issues the report identifies are "a variety of potential threats to human health and to the water supply that connects a complex ecosystem ranging from upland forest to wetland bogs to Lake Superior, state scientists say in an internal report that came to light Thursday." [Wisconsin State Journal, January 10, 2014]
- Mining isn't the only water quality issue Wisconsin is facing. See this JSOnline coverage of manure runoff and the threat it can pose to groundwater and our drinking water. [JSOnline, November 29, 2013]
- Read more about frac-sand mining and its environmental and health effects at WisconsinWatch.org.
- See various stories about efforts to undermine local control of environmental issues around mining:
- GOP legislators in Wisconsin want to roll back local powers to regulate mines and blasting. [Wisconsin State Journal, October 18, 2013]
- GOP bill would limit local government in regulating sand mines. [JSOnline, October 17, 2013]
- Proposed legislation would undercut public health and local democracy. [Midwest Environmental Advocates, October 17,2013]
- Sierra Club opposes sweeping attack on local control. [Sierra Club Newsletter (pdf), October 17, 2013]
- Former head of the Department of Natural Resources takes issue with Walker administration's environmental record. [JSOnline, September 22, 2013]
- Sierra Club in Wisconsin looks at the impacts of the proposed open-pit taconite mine in Ashland County and frac-sand mining in western Wisconsin. [Wisconsin Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club, Vol. 51, no. 3, July-Sept 2013]