November 2008

!!! Annual Meeting Notice & RSVP on Page 4 !!!

Hello again! Bet you thought we’d forgotten you! But of course we haven’t. This has been a busy summer and I’m afraid that has cut into our time to send out newsletters. But here we are, and there are a number of things to tell you about. Here we go………

The Compact

It’s done! Well, at least the law is passed.

On October 3, President Bush signed the Compact into law. It goes into effect immediately, although plenty of time is allowed for states to write the regulations and the procedures they need to follow to implement and enforce it. Our DNR has already begun to do that – they have to get regulations in place soon because they already have an application for Lake Michigan water from New Berlin and they expect one from Waukesha soon.

Now the real work begins. Each state is required to implement water conservation programs, and to measure the amount of water being used now so there’s a benchmark for future needs. This will affect every county and municipality in the state, not just in the Great Lakes basin. And since the Compact does things on a watershed basis, and political units are counties and municipalities, there will be some confusion on how to do this. For example, the Milwaukee River basin includes parts of eight counties and 30-some municipalities. No need to draw you a picture, it’ll be hard getting them all to work together. So, we have volunteered to speak to each County Board and explain to them what’s coming. No takers yet but I’m confident there will be. We can’t get into any detail, since none of the rules are written yet, but we can give them a heads-up.

That reminds me – many of you belong to groups that might like to see this presentation and learn more about what’s going on with our lake. Town and County governments, nature centers and organizations, beach groups, Rotary, etc. We’ll be glad to do it. Just send us an e-mail or letter and we’ll be in touch.

People, we done good. To all of you who helped by writing a letter or making a call to a legislator, a special thanks – these letters and calls are more effective than anything else. To all of you who didn’t write or call, you may be asked to bring a note from your Mom explaining why. And next time don’t forget!

And don’t think your one letter won’t make a difference, because it will. I’ve been to meeting after meeting with our state legislators and there’s one glaring thing I’ve noticed in all of them: the lobbyists are there, but not one of us – the taxpayers who supposedly run this state. Tourist associations, the dairy industry, real estate people, developers, and the manufacturers’ association – they’re all there. And they have money. If we expect to get what our lake truly needs we have to speak out, and keep speaking out. I believe our legislators really do want to hear from us, so let’s make sure they do!


This is the abbreviation of ‘International Upper Great Lakes Study’, the new name given to the study being done by the Corps of Engineers to determine whether or not they should change the way they manage the water level in Lake Superior and in the St. Clair River. In June public listening sessions, sponsored by us, were held in Sturgeon Bay and Milwaukee. We had an overflow crowd in Sturgeon Bay but a much smaller turnout in Milwaukee. The International Joint Commission (IJC) gave a very good presentation on what they’re doing and why. The project is to be completed in June 2009. I told you earlier that the date was February, but that’s for a preliminary report.

Results so far indicate that the low water we’ve experienced these last few years is the result of natural events – less than average rain and snow, warmer winter temperatures, and a lack of winter ice allowing more evaporation. A possible solution is to build a series of locks and a dam at the foot of Lake Huron, but it would be tremendously expensive.

Note – as of the end of September our lake is 13 inches below normal. This compares to 23 inches below average at the end of March. Heavy winter snow and all that rain in May and June brought the level up, but we can’t be complacent. If the IJC’s theory about warmer water and more evaporation during the winter is correct, by next spring we’ll be seeing lower levels again.

We’re holding our next membership meeting on December 6 at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, 1:30 – 3:30. The IJC will be the guest speaker and will give us an update on their findings and recommendations. To save on printing and postage costs, the meeting announcement is on the last page of this newsletter. Please plan to come – this presentation is very interesting and informative.

Great Lakes Restoration

Very little is happening with Great Lakes Restoration, mostly because the people who have to work on it were busy with the Compact. Restoration will be a much larger project and I don’t think many of these people realize this yet. But never fear, your organization will again be the catalyst and make sure things get done. This project will take several years.

One thing that’s starting to move is our Lake Michigan Stakeholders’ group. You may recall this is a group of people from many organizations – boots-on-the-ground people – who are developing a plan for Restoration in Wisconsin. Two of our eight work groups have developed several projects to reduce cladophora and to rehabilitate Green Bay. They’ve been approved by the DNR and have been funded. There’s more enthusiasm than I’ve seen since we began this almost three years ago. We’re pleased. But again we can’t be complacent – now our government has bailed out our financial system there probably won’t be any money coming. The bill for $20 billion that’s been in Congress for almost a year will not be approved this year or next. But there are other funds out there that we can use. We don’t need $20 billion all at once anyway, a few million will do for this year and next. We’ll need to be a little creative to get it, but I’m optimistic that we will.

We had a brief meeting with Rep. Sensenbrenner about what we are doing – meaning creating a plan for Restoration in Wisconsin – and how could we do it better so it would be approved by Congress, when it gets that far. After the usual ten minutes of bluff and bluster he looked through our plan, then leaned forward, looked me in the eye and said “I think you’re on the right track!” Heady stuff!

Great Lakes Clean Water Agreement (GLCWA)

This program is showing few signs of life. This is the agreement with Canada that was supposed to de-pollute the Lakes but has never quite made it to the light of day. The IJC still wants it, but apparently no-one else in government does. With the exception of yours truly and some of the environmental groups, that is – we want it. Part of the reason for all this is that the US and Canada want to continue with the agreement as is – that means with no enforcement clause – while the IJC wants a treaty between the two countries. We favor that approach. Stay tuned.


This is the DNR’s shoreland management program, being updated for the first time in fifty years. It’s come up against so much resistance from the inland-water people that it’s on hold. The only problem we’ve had with it is specifying the OHWM for the Great Lakes, which it doesn’t do, and the 50% maintenance requirement, meaning that over the life of your home or cottage you can only spend 50% of it’s total value to keep it maintained or to expand it. For now it’s on the back burner, but if it resurfaces, we’ll let you know.

Odds and Ends

· Due to the recent government expenditures to revive the economy very little money will be available for Great Lakes Restoration. This is serious. The original bill, HR1350, is for $20 billion and will not be voted on in its present form. That’s OK, I don’t think it’ll take that much money anyway and certainly not this year or next. The reason for that is that we still don’t have the plan I keep talking about. The plan will show why we need the money, how much, and what we intend to accomplish with it. But we do need some money while we’re finishing up our plan – I’m guesstimating that about $1 million this year and $500 million in 2009 is probably not too far off. There is other money available that we may be able to use but it’s not enough for the entire restoration program. We can use it in the short term though.

· Wind farms may be coming to ‘our’ lake. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has just issued a report about its feasibility, especially ‘near shore’, whatever that means – it could be very close. Michigan is also considering wind farms in the lake. I’m not sure I’m ready for giant windmills cluttering the sunrise, but given the energy crisis this proposal will get support. We’ll keep watching this and keeping you posted, but we need your thoughts, pro or con. Please write or e-mail us.

· The Asian carp barrier in the Chicago ‘sanitary’ canal is still not in full operation. The culprit in this case is the Coast Guard, which wants to test possible harm to barge traffic passing through the electrical field the barrier uses to keep the fish out. The Corps of Engineers is the agency responsible for maintenance and operation of the barrier and they’re not being aggressive in resolving this problem. This is urgent – it took two years just for our friends in Washington to approve funding, now we’re caught up in another bureaucratic snafu. Here’s an opportunity to write your federal legislators. And please do it – be polite but firm, brief, say you’re a member of the Wisconsin Great Lakes Coalition, and request an answer. Here are the addresses you’ll need:

Senator Herb Kohl
310 West Wisconsin Ave., Suite 950
Milwaukee, WI 53203

Senator Russ Feingold
517 East Wisconsin Avenue, Room 408
Milwaukee, WI 532002-4504

I’m giving you the Senators’ addresses because the issue is in the Senate and neither of ours is up for re-election. I’ll give you the Representative’s addresses after the election.

Last item, I promise. Your board is concerned that because of our lack of funds we aren’t able to provide the services to you that you need. We originally wanted to accept no public money and no outside money either, meaning we’d live on membership dues alone. But, of the roughly 30,000 people who live and/or own property on the Lake, less than 300 actually pay dues. To do our job the way it should be done will require staff, more money for mailings and meetings with you up and down our lake, and money to give your poor, hard-working president a salary. So, we’re going to apply for a grant, possibly more than one. Were presently talking to granting organizations – the Joyce Foundation, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, Glacierland, and others. We’re getting a lot of help from our environmental friends, especially Clean Wisconsin. I’ll tell you more at the membership meeting.

Thanks very much, see you December 6 in Mequon.

Jim Te Selle, President

!!! Annual Meeting Notice & RSVP on Page 4 !!!

Be sure to return the tear-off RSVP form on the next page with your membership dues for 2009, and to let us know if you’ll be attending the annual meeting on December 6. We’ve enclosed a reply envelope.