We have been providing updates on the issues relating to diversion of water from Lake Michigan for an industrial development in Mt. Pleasant. This update is provided by Louise Petering (LWV WI Vice-president and Carolyn Mahlum-Jenkins (LWV UMRR Board and LWV La Crosse)
Jimmy Parra, lead Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) attorney on the challenge on behalf of petitioners ‘ challenging the diversion has stepped down as of yesterday, Jan. 18th. MEA’s Sarah Geers is replacing Jimmy while Tressie Kamp and Jodi Habush Sinykin remain on the case.
Status of Petition Challenging the WI-DNR Permit
MEA submitted a brief supporting the legal basis for contesting the diversion Dec. 17, 2018. Responses to that brief from DNR and parties supporting the diversion are due at the end of January. Our MEA attorneys then have the opportunity to respond to defendants’ briefs by March 4, 2019.
The Admin. Law Judge (ALJJ, having read the arguments of both sides, will then make a determination given his reading of those arguments in light of WI law and precedent.
At this time it appears that the ALJ may decide on the case by the end of June.
Regardless of his decision, it is likely this case will go to the WI courts system, since one of the parties, either we petitioners or the WI DNR, will be disagree with the ALJ’s decision.
MEA had filed a stay for diversion of water and withdrew it on October 17, 2018 because the City of Racine committed to not divert water before mid-2019. By that time, the ALJ is likely to render a decision.
Outreach to Great Lakes State Leagues
In June 2018 Louise Petering, Milwaukee-LWV began reaching out to State Leagues in the other 7 Great Lakes states to garner support for our petition before the ALJ and the Great Lakes themselves. Outreach efforts continued in July and August. By September it became clear that elections, changes in Exec. Directors and other factors demanded the attention of the state Leagues. Perhaps contributing to non-response from other Leagues may be the fact that all diversions since the Dec. 2008 effective date of the Great Lakes Compact have occurred in Wisconsin. The diversion issue is simply not on the radar of the Leagues in the other 7 Great Lakes states.
During the summer of 2018, LWV Upper Mississippi River Region-Inter League (UMMR) and LWV IN did respond. UMRR’s board approved a statement supporting the petitioners’ initiative; LWV Indiana’s board approved of a letter petitioning their state representative to the Great Lakes Water Council (the governor or governor’s appointee) to file as an aggrieved party to the diversion. The idea of the latter was to move the challenge into the federal court system where a decision favorable to our case is more likely than in the WI court system. As of this writing the LWV IN has not received a response let alone action from the IN member of the Great Lakes Council regarding their request.
As of Feb. 5, 2019, Louise Petering will roll out a pledge with WI members to support the DNR/Racine/Foxconn challenge and Great Lakes Compact. Louise is working with the LWV WI Exec. Dir. early next week to roll out the pledge to LWV Lk MI Region (MI, IL, IN) and the remaining 4 Great Lakes state LWVs (NY, PA, OH and MN) We want to do this in a timed fashion so we can track pledge # with respect to the date of the roll outs.
They will also discuss asking Great Lakes state LWVs to consider pressing their representatives on the Great Lakes Water Council to file as an aggrieved party to the Racine diversion. Since all 4 diversions of Great Lakes water have occurred in WI, the diversion issue has not been an action priority for LWVs in OH, MI, PA & NY. We'd like all GL state LWVs to up the action on the permitted Racine diversion.
On January 17, 2019 The Conference of Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers named its new leadership team. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers will serve as Chair and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine will be Vice Chair.
Submitted by Louise Petering (LWV WI VP and LWV Milwaukee 19/2019 and Carolyn Mahlum-Jenkins (2/11/2019)
Minnesota's 2019 Water Action Day has been set for April 10. Last year, more than 700 people came to the State Capitol for this event. These citizen lobbyists took the message of water protection to their legislators through 145 legislative meetings, touching about 70% of the legislature.
This all-day event includes free breakfast and briefings in the morning, both on how to actively engage legislators and on the water issues that we face in Minnesota. Throughout the day, attendees will meet with legislators to ask them to protect our water, and the Clean Water Rally will be held in the Capitol Rotunda at 2:00 pm.
Register now at this link so meetings with your legislators can be set up! Bus transportation provided from multiple sites around Minnesota! The threats to Minnesota's waters are real this session - make your voice heard!
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region is one of the many organizations working together to make this event a success. This year, we are in charge of staffing the kitchen to keep this army of volunteers well-fed. Volunteers are needed to work a shift - if you are able to help, email us at email@example.com . The shifts available are:
7-8:30 a.m., 8:30-l0:00 a.m., 10:00-1130 a.m., 11:30 – 1:00 p.m., and 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Wait, what was that? Groundwater has been found to contain microplastics? Isn't that the fibers that come off our polyester clothes when we wash them? How would that get in groundwater? The video below, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, explains WHAT microplastics are.... and lists some of the sources.
As part of their work in sampling springs in northwestern Illinois, LWV Jo Daviess County (Galena) collected water samples from six springs in their area which were later tested for microplastic contamination. The results were published in the January 2019 edition of the journal Groundwater, and showed that microplastics are indeed getting into our groundwater. This article postulates that the source of the microplastics is septic tank effluent, based on analogous research into surface water contamination.
Other recent research, this time in Austria, found microplastic particles in human waste. Pollution is around us, and in us. As Walt Kelly said so long ago, "we have met the enemy, and he is us". Is us, and in us....
LWV UMRR congratulates LWV Jo Daviess County for this recognition of their work, while we are very sad at the findings.
What’s the status of the Foxconn flat-screen manufacturing plant in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin? Many conflicting stories in the news these days lead to confusion and uncertainty. In this item from Yahoo finance, Wisconsin State Assemblyman Gordon Hintz is quoted saying, “We have no idea of what is really going to happen. When they made the announcement at the White House with all the fanfare, it seemed to be a project that was going to have manufacturing jobs coming back to the heartland in Wisconsin. But what was sold to the public, what the president and the governor and others talked about in terms of this resurgence of manufacturing just simply isn't going to happen.”
In a February 1 article, the Wall Street Journal reports “Foxconn Technology Group, a major supplier to Apple Inc., said Friday that it has decided go ahead with the construction of a liquid-crystal display factory in Wisconsin, two days after saying building such a plant would be economically unfeasible. The Taiwan-based company said it is moving forward with a planned facility that would make small LCD screens after productive discussions with the White House and “a personal conversation between President Donald J. Trump and Chairman Terry Gou.”
“Our decision is also based on a recent comprehensive and systematic evaluation to help determine the best fit for our Wisconsin project,” the company said. Foxconn said the campus would serve as both an advanced manufacturing facility and a technology hub for the region.” The Wall Street Journal concluded the article by noting that, “The company (Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.) is in a potentially vulnerable spot as China and the U.S. engage in a trade battle involving tariffs.”
Critics also note that Foxconn has a history of what some might call "bait and switch" - changing plans after commitments have been made. This is discussed in this February 3 segment of "Up Front with Mike Gousha" on WISN TV, Milwaukee. In this segment, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel business reporter Rick Romell says Foxconn has made plans for, and then abandoned, plants in Pennsylvania, Brazil and Vietnam.
So, while the project may or may not be in a state of flux, the current lawsuit filed by Midwest Environmental Advocates will proceed. On February 1, Wisconsin Public Radio reported, “An environmental law center suing the state Department of Natural Resources over the decision to divert water to Foxconn Technology Group for its manufacturing plant says the company's change of plans should put the water diversion on hold.
Midwest Environmental Advocates in May challenged the DNR's approval of a city of Racine request to divert 7 million gallons of water per day outside the Great Lakes Basin. Sarah Geers, an attorney with the group, said the reason that Foxconn needed so much water was to manufacture LCD screens. … "Plans for the site have changed in fundamental ways since this project was first pitched to the public," Geers said. "In light of these dramatic changes, we are carefully evaluating how Foxconn’s new plans affect the city of Racine’s planned diversion of Great Lakes water."
Around the LWV UMRR region, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are increasing in number steadily. The demand for animal products, pork, beef, chicken, dairy products, has lead to this growth.
The growing number of hog confinements has many Iowans looking for increased controls on their growth. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier has a series of articles authored by Kristin Guess on CAFOs. The July 29 article looks at the chafing of local governments who are limited in their ability to regulate CAFO siting. A 2017 petition
filed by environmental groups Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch was denied. Attempts to pass legislation in the 2018 legislature also failed, and the debates go on. Critics note more than 97 percent of proposed facilities are approved, often over objections of neighbors and counties voicing environmental concerns.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in Wisconsin, the number of CAFOs has grown by 400% from 50 in 2000 to 252 in 2016, agency figures show. This has played a key role in growing milk production as farm numbers fall. The dairies are very different from the small dairies of earlier times. The video below, from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online, describes a modern dairy operation in Kewaukee County with 6500 cows.
Four environmental advocacy groups—Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin, Friends of the Central Sands, Milwaukee Riverkeeper and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation—challenged the settlement on the basis that the agreement, negotiated behind closed doors, changed DNR pollution permitting policies and rules without going through the official rulemaking process. A January 11 ruling by Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge William Pocan is being heralded by clean water groups as a win for public health and transparent government. Judge Pocan sided with the environmental groups represented by Midwest Environmental Advocates when he ruled that an agreement between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the State’s largest dairy business lobby violated state law. The decision is an affirmation of DNR's authority to protect water quality through the science-based application of state law intended to prevent pollution from Wisconsin’s largest concentrated livestock feeding operations.
UPDATE - JANUARY 18, 2019 - Wisconsin Supreme Court asked to rule on WI DNR authority to regulate agribusiness - click here.
Minnesota is the headwaters of three major North American waters basins - the Red River of the North basin, the St. Lawrence/Great Lakes basin and the Mississippi basin. To unite planning from cities, counties and watersheds, Minnesota has initiated a One Watershed, One Plan test project. Begun in 2011, five watersheds now have approved plans and 22 more of the state's 89 watersheds are in the works now. This story, from the Park Rapids Enterprise, describes the tribulations that one county is going through as it wrestles with the issues involved in adopting and implementing their part of the One Watershed plan for the Leech River. The Leech River runs through Hubbard County, entering the very-young Mississippi at Leech Lake. To read more about Minnesota's One Watershed One Plan program, click here.
Story from Park Rapids (Minnesota) Enterprise, December 22, 2018
By Shannon Geisen on Dec 22, 2018 at 4:00 p.m.
View original story here.
On Tuesday (Dec 18, 2018), the Hubbard County Board terminated its memorandum of agreement to develop a Leech Lake River One Watershed, One Plan. Since September 2017, the county has partnered with Cass County, Cass County Soil and Water Conservation District as well as the Hubbard County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to develop a 10-year comprehensive management plan for the shared watershed. According to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), the goal of the One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P) program is for local governments to combine information from their existing water plans, data and information from state water agencies, and input from federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and citizen stakeholders.
The board's Dec. 18 resolution states "the Hubbard County Board of Commissioners has determined that further participation in the agreement is not in the best interests of the county or its residents." County commissioner Char Christenson said, based upon county attorney Jonathan Frieden's advice at a Dec. 11 county board work session, "if we do not terminate this, we are automatically then committed." "That's somewhat different than what it was originally," added county commissioner Ed Smith. County commissioner Vern Massie said he has opposed the project from the beginning "because I said it was going to be a money pit and that's what it turned out to be."
"We're all finding that out, and this is just to kind of clean it up," said board chair Cal Johannsen, adding "if the new board wants to do something different, they can." Massie and Smith lost their bid for re-election to David De La Hunt and Tom Krueger, respectively. Ted Van Kempen replaces Johannsen, who is retiring. "It's just a bureaucracy. It's like the blob, just moving down the street," Massie said.
The motion passed unanimously.
Termination of the agreement was news to Hubbard SWCD Manager Julie Kingsley and SWCD Board of Supervisors Chair Lynn Goodrich. They have been part of the planning process since 2017. Neither was invited to the work session or Tuesday's board meeting, they said.
A 'major concern'
"The Hubbard County Board termination of the Leech Lake River Comprehensive Water Management Plan memorandum of agreement should be a major concern to the residents of Hubbard County," says Kingsley. "How does the county hope to maintain the water quality we now have if priorities aren't set and strategies and actions aren't taken to at least maintain and protect the main economic drivers in Hubbard County — our lakes, rivers, streams, forests and groundwater?"
The Leech Lake River watershed is unique in both its pristine nature as well as the potential level of development, which can diminish water quality. The watershed has 854,659 forested acres, 277 river miles, and over 750 lakes.
Major threats to the watershed include the loss of shoreline and aquatic habitat, population growth of up to 60 percent by 2030, increased pollution, and loss of biodiversity due to the expansion of invasive species. Sixty-one priority lakes were identified for protection, along with the Necktie River, Bungashing Creek, and the Kabekona River.
The One Watershed, One Plan planning process has been entirely voluntary, Kingsley added. "This is a plan. Neither county has any financial obligations in any way toward the planning process." Last week, a draft of the 355-page Leech Lake River Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan was made available for public review at www.co.cass.mn.us/LLR1W1P. Comments may be sent to Kelly Condiff at 218-547-7246 or firstname.lastname@example.org by Jan. 14, 2019. A public hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15 at the Cass County board room in Walker. The BWSR Northern Region Committee will then review all comments. In March, the BSWR Board is expected to approve the plan, then there is a 120-day window for local counties to adopt the plan.
Goodrich noted that Smith has represented Hubbard County at two recent meetings, "where he failed to voice any concerns about the plan that the commissioners might have discussed. We, along with BSWR representatives, have volunteered throughout this process to come to their meetings and answer any of their questions about the plan and process. The planning process has involved a great number of people representing various groups, agencies, local units of government, Native Americans — each giving freely of their time and talent to ensure the Leech Lake River 1W1P was well thought out and comprehensive," he said.
All representatives were involved in the budgeting process and all budgeted items were covered by a BSWR grant, Kingsley noted. "Hubbard County had no financial obligations for this part of the plan." "I must say I am sadly disappointed in the Hubbard County Board decision and resolution to withdraw from the Leech Lake River Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan at this stage of the game," she continued. "It is foolish and a waste of time, talent and goodwill for Hubbard County to withdraw at this time and not see this portion of the plan completed."
If Cass or Hubbard counties adopt the Leech Lake River 1W1P by Sept. 27, 2019, "that does not mean that they are locked into the implementation phase," Kingsley said. While it is a BSWR program, "counties have the final say on decisions." Goodrich explained, "It is our plan only if and when we choose to adopt it. We control it."
If the county decided to move to the next phase, a new memorandum of agreement between the partners would be written, Kingsley explained. She emphasized that implementation of the Leech Lake River 1W1P is a protection plan, unlike other watersheds, like in southern Minnesota, where expensive, site-specific restoration is needed. The Leech Lake River 1W1P is a protection strategy, she said.
Goodrich agreed. "Implementation is a very different thing here in the Up North country, as we have possibly the best waters in Minnesota and we are merely try to ensure they continue to be. We are exporters of water to the rest of the state." There are larger implications for the County if they do not complete the Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan, Kingsley added. "The county would then have to revert back to the Local Water Management Plan, which covers just Hubbard County and does not take the broader view of the three major watersheds in the county."
The local plan will be due for its five-year review in 2020. "If the county does not update the local water management plan, then funding from BWSR's Natural Resources Block Grant would be defunded. This funds the county's septic systems treatment upgrade program and shoreland ordinance," she said.
Mississippi headwaters watershed
In August, BWSR approved a planning grant for the Mississippi River Headwaters One Watershed, One Plan. This watershed includes parts of Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard, and Itasca counties. To date, the Hubbard County Board has only given a verbal agreement to participate in this watershed plan.
The following content is from Ann Journey's January Soil Health Update. Ann is Minnesota's Soil Health Coordinator with the NRCS -ACES program (read about the ACES program here). Thanks to Ann for permission to share this information on the LWV UMRR Blog!
MN-NRCS Soil Health Update, January 2019
Ann Marie Journey – MN NRCS, ACES Soil Health Coordinator
Happy New Year!
As corks were popping, credit card companies started to send the happy missives detailing how far over budget we went last month. We already knew amounts due could shock. Mastercard SpendingPulse reported on Boxing Day that holiday spending from November 1 to December 24 topped $850 billion, up 5.1% from 2017, despite bad weather on key shopping days. Eleven zeroes are hard to digest, so per capita perspective helps. The Census Bureau pegged the US population at 328,192,898 on Christmas Eve, resulting in a more relatable $2,590 each. Wait—weren’t we expected to spend $885? Yes, on gifts. Toss in extras like food and home improvement, and we bent the plastic. With an average APR of 17.21%, motivation to pay the balance ASAP is self-evident. But, as we know after a few days of sit-ups, kale, earlier bedtimes or any of the other top 10 resolutions, good intentions rarely suffice. In 2017, Americans incurred a mean $1,054 in holiday credit card debt. Nearly 80% of respondents to a year-end survey said they’d need three or more months to resolve it; 10% expected to make minimum payments only. Before 2018’s last spree, 32% of loyalty-program respondents planned to PAYGO, while another 32% predicted pay-off within three months. Will those plans hold once the bills arrive?
We live in the Age of Debt. The National Debt approaches $22 trillion (total public debt outstanding). The Census Bureau tallied state debt at $1.2 trillion in 2016 (most recent data), which balloons to $5 trillion if underfunded pensions are included; local governments owed $1.8 trillion. US corporations carried $9.1 trillion by mid-2018, a 46% increase since 2007 and a higher fraction of GDP than the previous record, set at the nadir of the Great Recession. US households have also binge-borrowed, racking up $13.5 trillion by the end of September, $420 billion of which revolved month-to-month on credit cards. Total credit card debt stood at $944 billion, just below last year’s $1 trillion high. Nor is the US alone; the world collectively owes almost $250 trillion, 89% of its 2017 total wealth. But debt—which Merriam-Webster defines as “sin,” “obligation” and “a state of owing”—is fungible. It can be a burden or a tool. Its terms are subject to negotiation. A debt of scale can even be absolved, hence “too big to fail.” Monetary debt is therefore fuzzy; it carries a whiff of the unreal. (Don’t try to tell that to your lender!) Humanity, however, has accumulated a real, growing debt, one measured in carbon and payable to a banker not known for leniency. The bills are marked “Second Notice.” The top 2 meters of Earth’s soils have lost an estimated 116 billion metric tons of organic carbon since organized agriculture began 12,000 years ago, and cumulative SOC loss is rising in hockey-stick fashion as agricultural land use increases. Two-thirds of it may have gone into the atmosphere, where we least want it.
This soil carbon debt has also been identified as the potential soil carbon sink capacity, becoming a central element of climate change mitigation. A sink that could swallow three years of CO2 emissions (all sources) can’t be ignored. Unfortunately, its attainable size likely tops out between 50 and 66% of its potential due to physical, chemical and biological constraints, and its feasible size could be lower still. This is where humans re-enter. On one side, among others, is the 4 Per 1000 Initiative, an organization aiming to ”demonstrate that agriculture, and in particular agricultural soils can play a crucial role where food security and climate change are concerned.” Based on the calculation that a 0.4% annual rise in SOC would “halt the increase in the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere related to human activities,” 4 per 1000 “invites all partners to state or implement some practical actions on soil carbon storage and the type of practices to achieve this (e.g. agroecology, agroforestry, conservation agriculture, landscape management, etc.).” On the other side sits every economic, technological, legal, social, political and logistical hurdle supporting the status quo, be it affirmatively, pragmatically or from a growing sense of futility. Asking farmers, foresters and other producers to realign their enterprises to the 0.4% goal is difficult without a means to value soil carbon. Change carries up-front costs. What’s SOC worth? Governments may not be able to incentivize at this scale, so how do we create a viable market for sequestered carbon? And should agriculture be under the responsibility microscope alone? City-dwellers use land and drive agricultural demand. We dug the carbon debt-pit together; digging out must also be a joint effort. Finally, while we’re thinking globally, take a moment to appreciate Bill Anders’ photo. There’s plenty of dirt in the foreground. Soil, biologically speaking, is restricted to the lovely blue orb in the background. Those who remember December 24, 1968 may recall the sense of awe this image generated, and the not-so-subtle dread that accompanied it. The Earth looked so tiny, so vulnerable…. In the fifty years since, humans have trod on lunar dirt six times, the last in December 1972. The Dark Side has now been reached, but lunar dirt is likely to remain just that for the foreseeable future. Terraforming is a heavy lift, even under a dense atmosphere, which the Moon lacks. Just ask the uncountable microorganisms who did it the first time, here. Soil health to lessen our carbon debt, lest the Earth foreclose upon it. There is no Planet B!
Click READ MORE for lots of information on many upcoming soil health events in our region!
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region ... in these blog posts we talk about what we do, where we go, our events, our beliefs. But what is the LWV Upper Mississippi River Region, anyhow?
Comprised of about 50 local Leagues across the Upper Mississippi watershed, we have a broad network and many interrelated issues to address. Our program of action - the things we work on - is set every year at our Annual Meeting with approval from our membership. Since our incorporation on October 25, 2015, we have been focused on working to reduce the amount of nutrients - fertilizers and wastes - that are discharged to the Mississippi.
In our four states, this work takes different forms. In Minnesota, our members advocate for stronger groundwater protections, help plan a major water-related lobbying day at the Capitol, and are working with other organizations to hold workshops for absentee owners of farmland. We learn about and take positions on water issues, such as when we joined with LWV Wisconsin to speak out against the diversion of water from Lake Michigan. And we work to shine a light on issues of groundwater depletion and pollution in parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
In Illinois, LWV Jo Daviess County (Galena) has been leading efforts to develop local water plans and protections, and organize monitoring efforts to document water quality in the Galena River as well as local groundwater. They have worked with the Rotary Clubs in the Midwest to educate and activate people on issues of nutrient pollution, and have received awards for their work.
Our Board meets on the first Monday of even-numbered months. We travel around the watershed, putting on events with local Leagues as part of our Board meetings. Here are some examples from December and October of 2018. When possible, we video our educational events and share the videos on our blog. Our Annual Meetings are big events, with speakers and more. In 2018, we were in Chicago for a joint meeting on LWV water work nationwide with LWV Lake Michigan; our 2017 Annual Meeting was in La Crosse and focused on water issues in Wisconsin.
Who we are, what we do, is built upon our strong foundation from LWV at all levels. The following statement was written by one of the founders of LWV UMRR, Bonnie Cox of LWV Jo Daviess County (Illinois). Bonnie's statement is inspirational, and provides a guiding light as we work our issues. We thank Bonnie for her work with UMRR!
Our blog posts document our work - here's a list of the posts as of December, 2018.
LWV UMRR Advocacy Update - and how you can get involved in comments to the proposed Clean Water Rule
The dual mission of League of Women Voters - to educate voters and advocate on issues - is exemplified in the work of the LWV Upper Mississippi River Region. We provide information on a variety of topics in this blog, through our newsletter, and in the educational meetings we co-sponsor with local Leagues. And we advocate, through taking and advocating for positions on key issues. This post provides an update on work we are doing in three areas; the Farm Bill, the Clean Water Rule and Foxconn.
Farm Bill: The conference committee report, which reconciles the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, was released early today. The Senate has already approved it, and a vote is expected in the House tomorrow. Here's a link to a summary of the bill, from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. LWV UMRR has been participating in conference calls with this coalition, and on Dec 11 signed on to a letter to Congressional leadership urging final passage of the bill . The bill has many positive components, including continued support for income-based food support, strong and expanded conservation program funding, additional supports for dairy farmers and even a provision to ease restrictions on the growing of hemp. We will include more information on this bill in blog posts to come, so stay tuned. The full text of the bill can be read here.
Clean Water Act preservation and support: LWV US was very involved supporting the initial passage of the Clean Water Act in 1970. (Read the history of LWV Clean Water Act advocacy here.) We are continuing this work through advocacy in two areas where our current federal administration is seeking to roll back Clean Water Act protections. One rollback is the rewrite of the Clean Water Rule. This multi-part rulemaking revolves around the definition of "Waters of the US". Here is the US, EPA rulemaking page, proposed changes were just announced on December 11, and a 60-day comment period will soon begin. LWV UMRR will work with LWV US to participate in this rule making. If you are interested in learning more about this proposed rule, and helping LWV UMRR prepare comments, please email us at email@example.com. We will send you materials and set up a conference call to discuss possible comment areas. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: The Environmental Integrity Project has issued a report on the impact of this potential rule change on Chesapeake Bay - Read more about it here.
LWV UMRR and LWV US have also signed on to a letter to EPA, urging them to maintain the existing Clean Water Act 404(c) rules. These rules have been used by environmental groups to counter environmentally damaging projects. The sign-on letter was started by the National Wildlife Federation.
Click here to read the letter. Click here to see the list of organizations that have signed on to the letter.
Foxconn: LWV Wisconsin has lead LWV efforts to oppose the withdrawal of more than 7 million gallons per day of Lake Michigan water for this new industrial development near Racine. LWV Lake Michigan is party to the Petition seeking reconsideration by WI DNR. LWV Upper Mississippi has made a resolution in opposition, and will continue to find ways to work against this transfer. You can read the resolution here.
LWV UMRR will be traveling to southeastern Wisconsin for our February Board meeting. We will seek to meet with Leagues in the area to talk about the project, get an update and see how the recent change of administration in Wisconsin may affect things. Once the plans for this meeting are set, we will share them here on our 'Upcoming Events" page. There are three previous blog posts on Foxconn:
The Cedar Rapids Gazette has dedicated resources to reporting on the progress of the twelve states that have agreed to work toward a 45% reduction in the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus discharged to the Mississippi, with a goal of reducing the 'dead zone' in the gulf.
This is an excellent series of articles, and is highly recommended to be read in their entirety.
The Gazette keeps their content behind a pay wall, however, allowing only so many 'reads' for free, and then requiring subscription at the introductory rate of $.99 for the first month. Here's a link to the articles - well worth checking into.
All that said, now here on the blog we will attempt to provide a summary - or maybe a teaser - with quotes and illustrations from the Cedar Rapids Gazette. The main article looks at what's being done and where, and how little progress is being made despite lots of sound and fury and expense. We also add here some information on what is happening in Minnesota, the headwaters state, where implementation is incremental at best, and positive results seen only on a small scale while the larger problem grows.
The article starts off with a problem statement: "A government task force said in 2008 it would cut nitrate and phosphorus pollution 45 percent by 2015 — both to help the Gulf of Mexico, where the nutrients have created a sprawling dead zone in which wildlife cannot survive — and to protect the health and safety of Midwest waters. Now 10 years later, the dead zone is growing, the 45 percent goal has been shoved back 20 years and, although millions have been spent in nearly every state along the Mississippi River, it’s not clear any progress is being made, a four-month investigation by The Gazette found."
There has been no reduction in nutrients, and the 'dead zone' continues to grow. Illustrations from the Cedar Rapids Gazette articles.
“The Gulf’s oxygen-deprived dead zone, called that because fish and other organisms must swim away or die, has an average size over the past five summers of 5,772 square miles. That’s three times larger than the task force’s goal of about 1,900 square miles. The group established the 45-percent reduction in nitrate and phosphorus running into the Mississippi because that’s what scientists think is needed to shrink the dead zone.
The task force’s 2008 Action Plan, a 64-page document that doesn’t describe enforcement options, asked each of the 12 central U.S. states to develop their own plans for reducing nutrients. The states are Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The Gazette reviewed all 12 state strategies, talked with dozens of state agency leaders and found the following:
In this article, Erin Jordan (author) contrasts the lack of progress in the Mississippi Basin with the work that is being done in the Chesapeake Bay, where reductions were mandatory and the water is getting cleaner. Click "Read More" below for more on Chesapeake Bay and information about voluntary and regulatory efforts to reduce nitrogen releases in Minnesota.
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region||