April 2007

Lot’s happening! Meetings, conferences, studies – all to the good. No laws or new regulations yet, but progress is being made. Remember that in the democratic system in which we operate all views must be considered, and often consensus is needed to reach agreement. Yes I know it’s time-consuming and frustrating but it’s also good, solid work that needs to be done if Great Lakes Restoration is to be successful. But not all is gloom and doom – there’s actually a bill in Congress for that $20 billion that I’ve talked to you about. It’s called HR 1350, Senate version is S.791. ‘The Great Lakes Collaboration and Implementation Act’. I doubt that it’ll pass in it’s present form, but in some form it will pass eventually. No Wisconsin legislators have co-sponsored this bill, by the way. So let’s get on with the news, but first –

— Thanks so much

– for all the letters. It’s good to know you care and are paying attention. This is going to be a busy summer, and we’ll keep you informed. We need you! No politician or agency would say boo! to us if it weren’t for you. We can be effective with your support, so let us hear what you think and keep sending those letters. And checks too.

What’s Going On Around Wisconsin

A number of non-government groups (called NGOs) are really doing a nice job in getting prepared for Great Lakes Restoration and the Compact. I’d name them but I’d surely miss a few who really do deserve credit. These people work hard, they’re knowledgeable, and they care for our environment. It’s a pleasure to be associated with them. Unfortunately, with no firm objectives or priorities in place, and no money for them to work with, it’s hard for them to make much progress. The DNR in particular has a problem. So, your president has directly contacted Scott Hassett, DNR Secretary; other DNR management; and Governor Doyle about it. I’d like to say we had a face-to-face sit-down meeting with the governor, but I can’t, it was a very short encounter in which he assured us he’d look into the matter. Stay tuned.

People like me and you, who come from the private sector and are unable to understand how government does things, get a little frustrated by the procedures to follow and the time it all takes. For example: when a government agency, such as the DNR, gets money from someplace, it’s usually for one specific thing. For example, when the carp barrier on the Chicago Sanitary Canal was approved, it only included money to build the barrier. It did not include money to maintain the barrier, or even to operate it. It’s sort of like asking the federal government for a carp barrier and then wondering where the money to operate it with is, and they say “Oh. You mean you want money to maintain it too? Why didn’t you say so? You’ll just have to get another bill passed.” This effectively puts the federal government in charge of whatever we want our state agencies to do. The way to avoid this is to get something called a ‘block grant’, in which the DNR would get a lump-sum total amount of money to do the entire project, whatever it might be. We intend to push for block grants because we believe an agency like the DNR should have control over what it’s doing, not someone in Washington.

NR115 – Wisconsin’s Shoreland Management regulations

The new version of NR115 is not yet available on the DNR’s website although we think that it’s been approved by the Natural Resources Board. Check our website for the latest – http://www.w-glc.org. We’ve posted several interesting documents there which should answer many of your questions. I assume a draft of the entire regulation will be available soon, since public hearings are coming up in July. All public hearings will begin at 4:30 PM. We urge you attend. Here’s the schedule:

NR 115 – Schedule of Public Hearings

July 12 – Eau Claire – Chippewa Valley Technical College – 620 Clairemont Avenue, Eau Claire, WI 54701

July 13 – Ashland – Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College – 2100 Beaser Avenue, Ashland, WI 54806

July 14 – Egg Harbor – Landmark Resort Egg Harbor Room – 7643 Hillside Road, Egg Harbor, WI 54209

July 19 – LaCrosse – Western WI Technical College – 304 6th Street North, La Crosse, WI 54601

July 20 – Hayward – Grand Pines Resort Whispering Pines Room – 12355 W. Richardson Bay Rd, Hayward, WI 54843

July 21 – Stevens Point – Sentry World Theater – 1800 North Point Drive, Stevens Point, WI 54448

July 26 – West Bend – UW Washington County – 400 University Drive, West Bend, WI 53095

July 27 – Grand Chute – Town Hall – 1900 Grand Chute Boulevard, Grand Chute WI

July 28 – Rhinelander – Holiday Inn Express – 668 West Kemp Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501

August 2 – Delavan – Lake Lawn Resort – 2400 East Geneva Street, Delevan, WI 53115

August 4 – Madison area – Fitchburg Community Center Oak Hall Room – 5520 Lacy Road, Fitchburg, WI 53711

Written comments are welcome on this comment sheet or in a separate letter. Comments can be emailed to Toni Herkert, Shoreland Management Team Leader at Toni.Herkert@dnr.state.wi.us or mailed to her at Toni Herkert, Bureau of Watershed Management – WT/2, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921. Comments can also be turned in at a public hearing or submitted online through the State of Wisconsin Administrative Rules website at http://www.adminrules.wisconsin.gov. Use the search button and type in the rule number. Electronic comments submitted by the close of the comment period are given the same weight and effect as testimony at public hearings.

All comments must be received by the Department by August 26, 2005.

We were not successful in convincing the DNR to hold at least one hearing in our areas, near the lakes. But I encourage you to attend one of these meetings if possible. I’ll be at the one in West Bend, stop and say hi.

As to a separate regulation for the Great Lakes, the jury is still out. The DNR has offered to do ‘something else’ for Lake Michigan but don’t hold your breath. NR115 is basically OK for us, all we’re really concerned with that’s different from inland lakes is the OHWM – the Ordinary High Water Mark.

The Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) concerns us. Remember that it was designed to establish a benchmark on inland waters, not the Great Lakes, for finding the set-back limit for building, additions, etc. You may also remember that the Glass case in Michigan used the Wisconsin definition of OHWM to determine exactly where on the beach the public could walk. We don’t think the public using the beach is an issue here, but we do think that defining the limits of the property we own and pay taxes on and carry liability insurance for should be recognizable to anyone without having to hire a surveyor. We understand that you can’t drive a stake in the sand, and so the mark will have to be based on something else, like an elevation. One of the Michigan Supreme Court justices (one of the two dissenters) thought it should be where the sand was wet from wave action, that might have some possibilities. In any case, this is still an unresolved issue. The re-write is due this spring, public hearings will be held in July. We’ll let you know. We need your input too.


Still no good news. Researchers, such as Dr. Harvey Bootsma who spoke to our membership meeting in December, are learning a lot more, but have no silver bullet. It appears that the only thing we can control that impacts cladophora is the phosphorus loading – fertilizers etc. going into the lake. There is new legislation coming soon that will require all fertilizers sold in the state, with a few small exceptions, to be phosphorus-free. Another big issue has been addressed – the state approved NR243, a regulation that controls dumping manure. It will address the big farms, which have been virtually exempt from controls. Unfortunately full implementation won’t take place for several years, but it’s a start, and a good one.

Don’t forget, if you who want to rake up the weeds and bury them, you still need a DNR permit that costs $500. We‘re working on getting that changed, but since it’s a state law, we have to go to the legislature. I think we’ll be successful, but not for a while.


Areas Of Concern (AOC) are areas around the lakes that are so badly polluted that special projects were created to clean them up. That was in the 70s, and of the original 43 areas, only 3 have been officially cleared. But, the Sheboygan River AOC has been in process since last summer. The upper river was dredged and the sediment removed, but now there’s a delay waiting for the DNR to manage the rest of the project. Still, it’s progress. Credit for this effort goes to several local groups who made enough noise that something actually got done – the Sheboygan River Basin Partnership especially. Our friends at the DNR were very helpful too. See? Not all the news we have for you is bad.

Great Lakes Caucus

After the November elections there were quite a few changes in this caucus and we were concerned that it might die. But it didn’t, we met again on April 17. Forty-one people attended, compared to about 25 at the first meeting. It was an introductory meeting introducing us to the group, explaining our reason for asking for this caucus, and very briefly touching on the major issues. Chuck Ledin, head of the DNR’s Great Lakes Office, and your president made the presentation. I pointed out that nobody seems to be in charge, and the clock is ticking. I also urged that we provide more resources for the Great Lakes Office, which only has five people to handle the huge task confronting us all. There was a very good response so I’m hoping we’ll see some action as a result. It won’t all be easy – the first thing on our legislature’s plate is the Compact, the agreement covering diversions and exportations of water outside the Great Lakes Basin, such as what Waukesha wants to do.

What’s Going On Around the Lakes

The Compact (formerly the Great Lakes Charter Annex)

As I mentioned above, this is the first Great Lakes issue our legislature will have to deal with. To make it law, each of the eight Great Lakes states must pass almost identical legislation, then Washington has to pass it. Minnesota has passed legislation implementing it. Illinois’ is on the governor’s desk. New York and Ohio have legislation in process. Wisconsin is working on a bill as we speak. We favor the Compact because our lakes won’t lose any more water and it will for the first time give us a control tool that will be hard to challenge in court. It’s also a possible means of bringing jobs to the state – we have water, it’s protected by the Compact, companies in dry states could be solicited to come here. We pointed that out to our Caucus.

Under the Compact, to get water a city like Waukesha will have to a) put in a water conservation program and prove that it doesn’t save enough water; b) demonstrate that there are no other viable sources of water, and c) return the water to the lake it was taken from. Also, a governor can approve diversions within his or her state up to 5 million gallons per day (5mgpd) without getting unanimous agreement from the other seven states and two provinces. If the diversion is more than that amount they have to get unanimous consent from the governors of the other states and provinces. Waukesha’s request would be less than that. The requirement to return the water is the clincher, because most cities simply can’t afford it. Waukesha is only a few miles from the Great Lakes basin divide but would have to build a pipeline to bring waste water back into the basin. The cost would be huge, even if they could hook up to MMSD’s system, which is doubtful. Las Vegas would simply not be able to afford it. This is how the Compact would preserve our water – it won’t say absolutely ‘no’, it’ll say ‘sure you can have some water, but under these conditions.’

Under the present law, called WRDA, any diversion from the lakes has to be approved by all eight governors, and there are no rules defining what standards might have to be met. If Governor X got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, a city might get nothing. The new law provides a step-by-step process that a city must follow, and if they do, approval is pretty certain. This means that it will be much easier for Waukesha or New Berlin to get approval under the Compact than under WRDA.

Great Lakes Clean Water Agreement (GLCWA)

This is the agreement that controls water quality in the lakes. It’s being updated to consider things like invasive species and pharmaceuticals that hadn’t been included in earlier versions. Several work groups spent most of last year working out the changes, only to find out that the International Joint Commission (IJC) wants a treaty, not an ‘agreement’. To use their words, “… a shorter and more action-oriented document” . Your board thinks that’s the way to go, because the existing version is anything but clear and has no enforcement provision. I suspect the IJC will win out. The result will be a treaty, signed by our President and the Canadian Prime Minister and agreed to by the states and provinces. We agree.

Upper Lakes Plan of Study

This is the study to be done by the International Joint Commission to determine if they should change the way they control water levels in Lakes Superior. Discharges or lack of them from Lake Superior can cause major changes in Lake Michigan/Huron. It will also study what impact on water levels, if any, there’s been by dredging in the St. Clair River. The study was recently funded and work teams are being set up on both sides of the border. Nominations are being taken for members of the Public Advisory Group, and we’re on the nomination list. I expect a decision by the end of June.

This study has the potential to control the extremes of high or low water, such as the record high in 1986 and the record low in 1964. The fact that this study is actually under way is in contrast to how the Restoration project is lagging, and points out the effectiveness of the IJC. This is good news. We’ll keep you posted.

The Asian Carp Barrier

No change from last newsletter – the feds have finally funded a second barrier in the Chicago Ship Canal to prevent the Asian Carp from getting into the lakes. We will now have two barriers, the electric type that the DNR used to use for lamprey control. This is good news but more needs to be done: there’s funding to operate the system for only one year, the second barrier is not yet operational, and there’s no stand-by electricity source in case of a power outage.

Michigan passed a law controlling ballast discharge and Wisconsin is working on one. This has generated some controversy, but since the feds have done nothing but talk about it, the states are doing something. As I write this there’s another push in Congress to get this legislation passed. We’ll keep you informed.

Your president has suggested that perhaps we should think of closing the Chicago Sanitary Canal altogether and also the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Others with bigger voices than mine are also urging another look at why we need the Seaway. It was designed and built in the ‘50s but ships today are much bigger and won’t fit through the locks. Closing these two ‘loopholes’ would almost guarantee that no aquatic invasive species could get in. It’s likely to raise eyebrows but all they can say is no. If we don’t ask, then we surely won’t get.

Coast Guard Live-Fire Exercises

The Coast Guard’s proposal for target-shooting in the lakes has been dropped. Our friends in Washington got so many complaints that they cancelled it. I can’t report to you that we did it, but I can report that you won’t need flak jackets the next time you go salmon fishing.

Last But Not Least

Our friends at Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District (MMSD), and they are our friends, have begun a program that will eventually clean up the entire Milwaukee River watershed. They call it MRPI, Milwaukee Regional Partnership Initiative. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a very good editorial on it on May 11 and it’ll be on our website. Keep in mind that MMSD’s service area is less than half of the watershed, and that it includes five rivers – the Milwaukee, Menomonee, Kinnikinnic, Root, and Oak Creek. Their project is based on one in Illinois done by the Chicago Wilderness group. Yes it’s an unlikely name but in about 15 years this group, which includes private citizens, local governments, and businesses, has made some remarkable improvements in water quality and watershed health. The results will be improved water quality and environmental health not just in the rivers, but in their watersheds as well.

O yes – MMSD is also adding another deep tunnel, another 27 million gallons of storage. Good stuff, but remember that storm runoff from urban areas and farms doesn’t go into any sewer system. Today we know that it is by far the leading contributor to poor water quality in our lake. But thanks to some really had work by the researchers at UWM Water Institute we won’t be spending our time and money fighting the wrong enemy.

Jim Te Selle, President