New rules unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seek to reverse the effects of two controversial Supreme Court rulings (known as the Rapanos and SWANCC decisions), which narrowed the government's ability to enforce pollution laws for smaller streams and bodies of water without a “significant nexus” to a navigable waterway. What does “significant nexus” mean? No one really knows!
On April 8th, the Mequon Common Council unanimously approved a five home subdivision on 10 acres along the Milwaukee River (south of Freistadt Rd), contingent on acquiring 148 acres from the current owner along the river for preservation. The developer had originally proposed 19 houses on 42 acres at this site.
Our Riverkeeper wrote an op-ed for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explaining our concerns with a proposed shoreline bill that has passed the State Assembly and is pending in the Senate. This bill would establish an artificial shoreline to facilitate development on a parcel that was formerly the bed of Lake Michigan.
The Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) protects navigable waters as well as areas that were formerly part of navigable rivers and lakes. We are concerned about the negative precedent this bill would set for private development on areas the PTD protects for public use. The PTD is one of the foundations of water law in WI and the US. Read the op-ed here!
We urge you to contact your legislators and ask them to oppose AB 680 (aka LRB3079), which is an attempt by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and industry to weaken the phosphorus rules before they've even been given a chance to work.
This bill would give dischargers 20 years to comply with our new phosphorus rules to address nuisance algae.
The Public Service Commission approved the conversion of the Valley Power Plant in downtown Milwaukee from a coal burning plant to natural gas, which is a good first step in addressing issues at this plant that affect our air and water. Water quality will be improved due to less mercury and other heavy metals from coal running off into the Menomonee River and its canals.
The United States Senate overwhelmingly voted to support the 2014 Farm Bill in a 68-32 vote. This has been a YEARS long process, and President Obama is expected to sign it soon. This comprehensive, five-year Farm Bill will generate more than one billion dollars for saving working farm and ranch land, strengthening local communities, and improving our nation’s agricultural lands, its wildlife, and its water resources.
In addition to the bad phosphorus bill, there is a bad groundwater bill circulating--SB 302-- that undoes a unanimous 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision confirming that the WDNR has a responsibility to protect Wisconsin's public waters. Basically, this bill would prevent WDNR from protecting our private wells, drinking water, and waterways from industry and excessive groundwater pumping that is drying up our wells and rivers.
On Monday, January 13, citizens expressed concern about the long-term health of the Great Lakes at a public hearing. The hearing was organized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take public comment and to answer questions on the government's plan to prevent invasive fish such as bighead and silver carp from entering the lake.