Waterways - under attack
Waterways under attackwww.greenbaynewschron.com/page.html?article=122246
By Curt Andersen
Our Republican Assembly is once again attempting to screw with the status of thousands of miles of some of the best trout streams in Wisconsin. Assembly Bill 506 attempts to change the definition of what constitutes a navigable stream. If passed into law, this would remove state regulatory protection from waterways that bring millions of tourism dollars into the state.
The streams in question include the Wolf River north of County A in Langlade County (coincidentally the site of the proposed Crandon Mine; considerable parts and the tributaries of the Pike, Popple and Pine rivers - all State Wild Rivers ... coincidentally near the proposed Front 40 mining project near Menominee, Mich.); as much as 90 percent of the streams in Door County; the headwaters of all of Wisconsin's trout streams; and large portions of every river or stream in Wisconsin.
The bill is sponsored by local Reps. John Ainsworth, R-Shawano; Judy Krawcyzk, R-Green Bay; Gary Bies, R-Sister Bay; Frank Lasee, R-Bellevue; Terri McCormick, R-Appleton; Lorraine Seratti, R-Spread Eagle; and co-sponsored by state Sen. Alan Lasee, R-Rockland. It's the usual suspects again.
Republicans in our Legislature attempted this same sort of monkey business a few years ago during their move to change the status of the Wolf River.
The idea was to change the designation of the Wolf River from Outstanding Resource Waters to some lower designation, thereby allowing a mining company to dump pollution into the Wolf River without pesky permits or expensive water treatment.
Dumping their acidic pollution into the Wolf would ruin the multitude of tourism-based businesses along the river and would destroy the property value of all the land on that river. It would also destroy the sturgeon and walleye fisheries in the area, the source of much of that tourism income.
The Public Trust Doctrine evolved from the time of the Romans under Emperor Justinian, who in 528 AD condensed earlier decrees of other Emperors into a code of law by saying, "By the law of nature these things are common to all mankind; the air, running water, the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea." Similar concepts were part of the Magna Carta, signed in 1225 AD. Before that time, all lands were the sovereign property of the crown. The Magna Carta allowed the king to own public lands, but hold them in trust for the use of the public.
In America, this concept was included in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which declared, "The navigable waters leading into the Mississippi and St. Lawrence ... shall be common highways and forever free...." It was further enhanced by 155 years of Wisconsin legislation and court decisions that protect state waters and state lands so all citizens can use them.
This transparent attack by the Republican-dominated Assembly, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, real estate developers and the mining industry, shows the unmitigated gall of elected officials who would subvert the intent of all those people who thoughtfully put land and water aside for the future use of hunters, fishermen, campers, hikers, bird watchers and so forth. Without this protection, these people would have to hunt or hike their own land. This is the essence of the Public Trust Doctrine.
The public cannot trust this Republican legislature.
Andersen is a lifelong resident of the Green Bay area and a Navy veteran. He owns a small business and is an adjunct instructor at NWTC. He is vice president of the Clean Water Action Council. His column runs Wednesdays. Contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
From Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin
Return to Midwest Treaty Contents Page