Hello again, we hope you’re all having a nice summer, especially if it includes ‘our’ lake. There are two primary issues you need to know about, so we’ll skip the usual pleasantries and get on with things.
Here are the two big items:
NR115 – Wisconsin’s Shoreland Management regulations
The DNR is finally ready to hold public hearings on the revised shoreland management regulations. While we see nothing that overtly creates problems for us, there are a few things worth questioning them about. For those of you with Internet access, go to the DNR’s website, http://dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/ce/news/hearmeet.html, for more information. For those of you who aren’t members of the internet fraternity, here is commentary from that website:
1. Land Division Review – NR 115.09
- The requirement for land division review is changed from the creation of “3 or more lots” to the creation of “one or more lots” to ensure that all new lots created meet minimum lot size requirements.
- If new lots are created that are divided by a stream or river, one side of the lot shall have a compliant building location. Lot Size and Development Density – NR 115.11
- Minimum lot size and density standards have changed eliminating a distinction between sewered and unsewered areas. The new minimum lot size for all lots created after the effective date of the rule is 20,000 square feet and 100 feet of width at the building setback and ordinary high water mark. Counties may allow development on a substandard lot.
- Counties are required to develop minimum area or lot size requirements for multi-family residential structures, mobile home parks and campgrounds.
- Counties may request the approval of standards for alternative forms of development with reduced lot sizes for planned unit developments, cluster developments, conservation subdivisions and other similar alternative forms of development if they include larger shoreland buffers, larger lot sizes or larger setbacks on those lots adjacent to the water.
2. Shoreland Setback – NR 115.13
- Language is added to address structures exempted by other state or federal laws from the shoreland setback standards.
- Provisions are added to allow counties to exempt structures from the shoreland setback if they meet certain requirements outlined in § NR 115.13(4).
- The construction of new dry boathouses is still exempted; however, a size limit of 250 square feet has been added to the rule.
- Standards are established to qualify a lot for a reduced setback if there is not a compliant building location.
3. Height Requirements – NR 115.15
- A new section on structure height was added to protect and preserve the natural scenic beauty of lake and riverine environments. Shoreland Vegetation and Buffers – NR 115.17
- Language governing management of shoreland vegetation in the primary shoreland buffer is improved, resulting in a more functional buffer protecting habitat and water quality.
- Tree and shrubbery pruning is allowed. Removal of trees and shrubs may be allowed if they are exotic or invasive species, diseased or damaged, or if an imminent safety hazard, but removed trees and shrubbery must be replaced.
- Provisions are added to allow counties to exempt 7 types of activities from the shoreland vegetation provisions.
- A formula for the width of access corridors is provided, replacing the “30 feet in any 100 feet” provision, which was confusing if a lot had less than 100 feet of frontage. A second formula for lots with greater than 200 feet of frontage was also added to address larger developments adjacent to the water.
4. Impervious Surfaces – NR 115.19
- Development is regulated through the use of percentages of total impervious surface rather than through the use of a nonconforming structure provision. The impervious surface percentages of 10% for new principal structures or 15% for existing development may be exceeded up to a maximum of 20% total impervious surface within 300 feet of the ordinary high water mark if mitigation measures are implemented and maintained.
- Provisions are also included for shared impervious surfaces, expansion, enclosing existing impervious surfaces, replacements and relocation.
5. Mitigation Provisions – NR 115.21
- Provisions are now a performance measure to protect, preserve and enhance water quality and wildlife habitat while achieving natural scenic beauty.
- There is a water quality standard and a wildlife standard that the counties will have to flesh out in their individual ordinances. The water quality standard will require infiltration of runoff.
- A provision on proportionality has been added to ensure the mitigation measures required will not outweigh the impacts of the proposed project.
6. Land Disturbing Construction Activities – NR 115.23
- A county permit is required for land disturbing construction activities in the shoreland zone to minimize erosion and sedimentation.
- Counties shall exempt from the permit requirement activities that have already received permits from other identified permitting authorities.
Schedule of Public Hearings: Note the first hearing is coming up pretty soon, although I don’t think many of our members are in the Wausau area. The three hearings in August will be best for us. I’m disappointed in the DNR because we offered to help them find a meeting facility in Mequon or Sheboygan or Manitowoc, but as yet Great Lakes issues apparently aren’t very high-priority with them.
July 24, Wausau – Auditorium, Health & Science Bldg., North Central Tech College, 1000 W. Campus Dr.,
July 25, Rhinelander – Auditorium, Rhinelander High School, 665 Coolidge Ave.
July 26, Rice Lake – Blue Hills Masonic Center, 225 West South St.
July 31, Tomah – Community Room, Farmers & Merchants Bank, 1001 Superior Ave.
August 2, Green Bay – Neville Museum Theater, 210 Museum Place
August 7, Pewaukee – Waukesha County Technical College – Pewaukee Campus – Richard T. Anderson Education Center – 800 Main St.
August 8, Stoughton – Opera House, 381 E. Main St.
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 RulesWeb site at https://apps4.dhfs.state.wi.us/admrules/public/Rmo?nRmoId=255.Electronic comments submitted by the close of the comment period, Sept. 7, 2007, are given the same weight and effect as testimony at public hearings.
The DNR has told us for the last three years that ‘something’ would be done to address the unique differences of the Great Lakes. Thus far, we have no idea what or when that may be. We are not getting the attention that we think the Great Lakes need, which we’ll continue to bring up at the Great Lakes Caucus in the legislature.
Great Lakes Caucus
Speaking of the 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.
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.
The Compact (formerly called the Great Lakes Charter Annex )
You’ll recall this is the agreement between the eight Great Lakes states and Ontario and Quebec over use of the water. It’s currently the hottest topic around the basin. Minnesota has passed it, Illinois is about to, Ohio and New York have legislation in process. Much has been in the news lately on New Berlin’s need for water and how the DNR has approved them talking to Milwaukee about supplying it. There’s a lot of sentiment against giving New Berlin the water until the Compact is at least written into law in Wisconsin. New Berlin’s state senator, Mary Lazich, is strongly opposed to the Compact because she feels that the city somehow will be short-changed if the new process is followed, even if it hasn’t yet become law. The fact is that the new Compact provides a formal and pretty straight-forward way for a community to get water, whereas today’s law – WRDA – requires unanimous consent by all ten governors and premiers; since it was established only two communities have been approved. Our take on all this is that a) this issue is bound to come up in communities all over the region so it needs to be dealt with in a way that doesn’t set any precedent, and b) if New Berlin is agreeable to meeting the requirements of the Compact, especially the part about returning the water – treated – to the lake they took it out of, we should be OK. The idea here is to keep Great Lakes water in the Great Lakes. We expect that in spite of all the rhetoric, calmer heads will prevail, and a solution will be found. In the meantime, you should contact your state legislators and urge them to get legislation drawn up that makes the Compact law in Wisconsin. Without it, there is no real protection for our water.
Another point before we leave this subject: the DNR has been conspicuous by their absence in any leadership regarding the Compact, or Great Lakes Restoration in general. While I’m pleased with the cooperation of the Office of the Great Lakes and its staff, it is totally undermanned to handle a project of this magnitude and importance. The problem is leadership, or lack thereof, at the very top of the DNR food chain, and a failure of that leadership to make the Great Lakes a priority.
Before I forget: on Sunday, June 24, the Birmingham (Alabama!) News published an editorial called ‘Water Woes’ suggesting the Southern states start making plans to pipe in Great Lakes water. There’s no doubt about it, lots of people want that water, and without proper legal protection, they just might get it. Per the Corps of Engineers, we’re 19 inches below normal at the end of June – that’s bad enough. We all need to speak out, or one of these days we may be able to walk to Michigan.
A list of the members of the Great Lakes caucus – the legislators you need to contact – is included with this newsletter. Tell them who you are and your address, and tell them you want them to enact legislation to implement the Great Lakes Basin Compact, its formal name. For those of you who have the internet, a good overview is at the Great Lakes Commission website, http://www.glc.org/about/glbc.html. Please do this.
And here’s the rest of the news………
Great Lakes Clean Water Agreement (GLCWA)
Not much to report here. The draft of the changed document is being reviewed by the EPA and others and we’ll probably hear something about it before fall. But, the International Joint Commission (IJC), wants it simplified and given an enforcement clause and that it be signed by the President of the US and the Prime Minister of Canada. We agree. The current version is wordy, hard to understand, and has no enforcement provision. We favor the IJC’s idea, even though that means going through the whole procedure of work groups, public hearings, draft preparations, etc., again.
Great Lakes Restoration
A tremendous effort is being exerted by almost all the groups we deal with, including the DNR, to get the Compact enacted into law. As a result, not much attention is being paid to the Restoration effort. But we do have a very positive development: our Stakeholders’ group is still working on developing a plan for implementation of Restoration. As I’ve told you in past newsletters it’s slow work and sometimes frustrating, but it is that way because the many different groups involved are quite different in their operating modes and objectives. We have groups ranging from tribal organizations to sport fishermen to manufacturing companies so It will take a while to work through this, but I’m eternally optimistic. But I was very pleased to see the work being done by our Steering Committee. They came up with the idea of doing small-scale projects that fit into the eight priorities of the Council of Great Lakes Governors and using these as models on which to build an all-encompassing plan. What they’ve proposed is really good – one project will deal with cladophora, our favorite smelly weed, its causes and cures; the other will deal with songbird migration through the Lakes. Both projects will be heavy on public education. We’re finding a great amount of mis-information around the state about the condition of the lakes – many people for example believe all those smelly weeds that wash up on our beaches are really sewage overflows from Milwaukee. Expect to see a lot of focus on public awareness and education over the next few years. Our greatest enemy in getting our lakes cleaned up is not the DNR or the EPA or the budget – it’s the apathy and lack of understanding by the general public. That’s why it’s important that you write your legislators – if you don’t tell them what you want done with our lake, they’ll do whatever somebody else tells them to.
Upper Lakes Plan of Study
Nothing to report here. The IJC and the Corps of Engineers are setting up their work groups and public advisory groups. It’s a slow process and I don’t expect much to develop before fall. This is the study that will tell us if we should change the way we manage Lake Superior’s level, and as a result affect Lake Michigan/Huron’s level, so it’s important to us. But Mother Nature may have the last word – as of the end of June, Lake Superior’s level was 20 inches below normal.
Over the last few weeks I’ve had the privilege of meeting with two of our Wisconsin Congressional delegation, Rep/ Steve Kagen and Rep. Tom Petri. The meetings were arranged by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, or WLCV. People from several organizations, including the DNR, attended – groups generally ran about 10 – 12 people. Subject matter was the state of the Great Lakes basin, projects being worked on, and problems needing solutions. I got to give a ten-minute presentation on who we are and what we want – namely, we want it all! Both congressmen were very interested, listened closely, and asked lots of questions. Both meetings lasted well past the scheduled ending time. We got a little more attention than the other groups because we are a voter/taxpayer group of about 30,000 people, the other groups at the table were primarily public/government. We expect to also have meetings with the other three Representatives in Wisconsin’s Great Lakes basin – Reps. Ryan, Moore, and Sensenbrenner, and perhaps Obey, and hopefully Senators Feingold and Kohl. No dates are set yet but I expect they’ll take place over the next few months.
WLCV is an excellent organization and has been a great help to us. If you have the opportunity, support them. They are exactly the kind of organization we need to associate ourselves with.
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.
Mark Your Calendar
We’re going to hold our annual membership meeting on October 13th this year, hoping that the better weather and longer daylight hours might persuade a few more of you to attend. It’ll be at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, probably 1:30 – 4 PM. There will be another mailing in September with a meeting announcement, details on the speaker and program, and an RSVP form. It’s a board member election year and we have three vacancies, so if you’re of a mind to get involved, get someone to nominate you and we’ll get you on the ballot.
Thanks for your attention, and have a beautiful summer. See you at Concordia in October.
Jim Te Selle, President