We have a very short newsletter for you this quarter. It’s not that there’s nothing to talk about, it’s that our DNR and state legislature have been so wrapped up in the budget process that they have no time to give to our lake. So although there’s a lot that we could be discussing, we’ll confine ourselves to two subjects – NR115 and the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, better known simply as the Compact.
Here are the two big items:
This is the new law which will control the use of water from the lakes, provide a process for getting it, and also provide a legal appeal process that the current law, called WRDA, does not. Under the Compact, a city such as Waukesha would have a formal application to follow to get water and would have to agree to return it to the lake they took it from, treated. If the volume of water they want is less than X million gallons per day (I’m not sure what the exact number is), only one governor, ours, would be needed to approve it. If the volume is more than that, all eight governors and two Canadian provincial Premiers would have to approve. There will be an appeal process so that a request that’s denied could be given a court hearing. Today, under WRDA, all of the governors and premiers have to approve any quantity, no matter how small, and there is no appeal process.
Recently the Birmingham News, of Birmingham, Alabama, wrote an editorial urging their state to begin a plan to pipe water from the Great Lakes. We suspect that as drought encroaches on more of the country, there will be more such plans. Under WRDA, there’s very little we could do to stop it. But each of the eight Great Lakes Basin states must pass the legislation and then it goes to Washington for a federal bill. To date, Minnesota and Illinois have passed the legislation; Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania have it moving through their legislatures; but Wisconsin hasn’t even prepared a draft. The budget is causing some of the delay, but most of it comes from a very few people in Waukesha who oppose it. So –
We want you to send a letter to your state senator and representative and tell them to enact the Compact legislation in Wisconsin. Say you’re a member of WGLC. Say you support the Compact. Say you want regulatory language included in the legislation (if they pass it without that, it may be another two or three years before regulations are written – without regulations, the law can’t be enforced). If possible, hand-write the letter. It shouldn’t be long, one paragraph is fine. Include your name and address so they know you’re really one of their constituents.
We’re enclosing a list of all the state senators and representatives in the Great Lakes Basin for your use.
Remember – we have no strength, no influence unless members step up and tell our government what they want. They’ll listen politely to me, but they’ll really sit up and take notice if they get letters from you. The more the better. After all, votes are the only thing that counts.
NR115 – Wisconsin’s Shoreland Management Regulations
This is the updated shoreland management that the DNR is proposing. As we’ve been telling you, there’s been a lot of public input which has caused the DNR to make some major changes in what they’re proposing. For the most part we’re OK with it, except for one thing – no considerations are made for the unique features of the Great Lakes, so the way setbacks are handled needs to be revised. In NR115, setbacks are measured from the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM), which is well-defined on inland waters but not on the Great Lakes. For example, at my place the OHWM is about 35 feet from our front door but the water is about 270 feet away. If the low water levels continue and the dunes build up, the OHWM will move east! If the high water returns, the ‘ordinary’ high water mark may be under water! On shorelines with bluffs or rocks, the whole concept of OHWM may be unworkable.
The deadline for public comment on NR115 is passed, but not to worry, if we have a good reason why we want this changed, the DNR will listen. Your board’s concern is that if setbacks are measured from the OHWM, many of us who have ‘non-compliant’ homes and cottages may be unable to make additions to them, and in extreme cases, we may not be able to sell them. But we need to think this through thoroughly before we approach the DNR. So, we’d like to hear from you before we do anything. Tell us what you think about this and how you think we should proceed, For those of you with e-mail, our address is INFO@W-GLC.ORG. If you use USPS, send your thoughts to:
P.O. box 700168
Oostburg, WI 53070-0168
Great Lakes Restoration
OK, I promised you only two items but you need to know what’s happening about ‘restoring’ our lake. The short and simple answer is ‘nothing’! It’s been almost two years since the program was approved by the governors and premiers, but the task force put in charge of implementing it has done virtually nothing. OK maybe that’s a little unfair: they’ve had lots of meetings, they’ve created a lot of really cool websites, and they sure send out a lot of e-mails. But no tangible effect on the Lakes has yet been made, at least none that I’m aware of. Yesterday I attended a meeting in Chicago whose purpose was to update us on the ‘progress’ to date: we heard an Indian prayer, we saw videos of two congressmen giving us pep talks, and other things of like nature that I missed because I was bored to death. Fortunately, several people got up and demanded to know why nothing is being done, but unfortunately, they didn’t get answers. If you’re looking for someone to blame for all this, you can start with the EPA, which is supposed to be in charge. But the bottom line is that we the voters are responsible. We cannot let this go on, and believe me, we will continue prodding people until we get some action. We may need to call on you for another letter, stay tuned.
Annual Membership Meeting October 27, 2007
We’re holding our Annual Membership Meeting in October so that more of you can come, and we hope that you do. We’ve enclosed a meeting announcement, a reply envelope, a tear-off RSVP form with a request for your $35 annual dues, and a proxy form for those of you who won’t be able to attend in person.
Thanks for your attention, and your patience. See you at Concordia University Wisconsin on October 27th.
Jim Te Selle, President