Saturday, January 20, 2018

Foxconn general contractors based in Rhode Island, Germany

On, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and Germany. 

Really, reports BizTimes Milwaukee! 
Foxconn Technology Group plans to select Providence, Rhode Island-based Gilbane Building Co. as the general contractor for its $10 billion Mount Pleasant manufacturing campus, according to numerous real estate and construction industry sources.
Gilbane, which has an office in Milwaukee, will serve as the general contractor, working with another international company based in Germany that focuses on clean air, that source said.
Guess I better update that Foxconn archive. 

You can't see the forest when chainsawing the trees

A few words about trees and golf tees in Scott Walker's 'chamber of commerce' Wisconsin.

You may remember that some years ago, a Milwaukee homeowner on upscale Wahl Ave. across the street from the county's Lake Park used a chainsaw on park land to get the less-obstructed view of Lake Michigan he wanted.

In fairness, Walker was only Milwaukee County Executive at the time, and not the Governor, but I don't remember him on the evening news speaking up for public land that had been damaged.

Anyway, the home owner eventually 
paid some restitution costs, and a fine, for cutting down a single tree after disagreements about deed restrictions and property rights and how many of eighteen trees found on the ground in the area could be tied by witnesses to the home owner's actions. 

Now this episode didn't rank up there with other high-profile acts of controversial chainsawing, including one by the actor "Mr. T" in Lake Forest, IL, and in a Washington, DC suburb for Daniel Snyder, the billionaire owner of the local NFL Football franchise. 

But you get the point. 

People care about trees - - even just one.

And in today's fast-paced and stressed world they may care even more because there's published evidence that walking in nature among trees, aside from the pleasant timeout, is measurably good for your physical and mental health, as The New York Times put it:

How walking in Nature Changes the Brain
In other words, trees aren't just connected to the soil and wetlands to get us the water we need for life, and which are a bulwark against a warming climate and violent weather. They and we are interconnected - - and even our brains are involved - -  so be smart and honor it.

Which brings me to the approval last week by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources of the first permit needed by a major Walker donor/Kohler interests to essentially flatten much of its privately-owned, heavily-wooded, dune-and-wetland-and-wildlife habitat-rich 247-acre nature preserve to construct an 18-hole golf course, driving range, club house, restaurant, 260-vehicle parking lot, maintenance building and other amenities on a bluff south of Sheboygan an easy stone's throw to the Lake Michigan shoreline - - and adjacent to, and even five acres into the popular Kohler Andrae State Park right next door.

So after a walk today for my health and peace of mind through the afore-mentioned Lake Park

I took the time with trees in mind to read the DNR's lengthy Environmental Impact Statement which is launching the Kohler golf course permitting procedure.

And because there appear to be thousands and thousands of trees about to face the chainsaw, and the bulldozer - - and not one, let's just say - - "Yipes!"

*  Page 36Much of the 247-acre Kohler parcel currently includes forested habitat. The golf course design would remove approximately 100 to 120 acres of forested land cover. Forested land and specimen trees will remain as part of the design located predominantly between golf course features. Opening up blocks of forested land will result in greater potential for windthrow and wind damage to the remaining trees.

*  Page 50: The Kohler Property is almost 100 percent contiguous forest. Up to 50 percent of the forest would be removed if the proposed project is constructed. The remaining fragmented forest would provide some habitat during songbird migration. Invasive species management and restoration of native trees and shrubs in invasive removal areas would help control exotic and invasive species in the retained forest. The forest edge along turfgrass and human use areas created from fragmentation of the forest would probably increase the challenge of exotic and invasive species management. 

The edge would likely provide some habitat for species that inhabit transitions between forest and openings. Habitat value would likely be diminished. 

Tree clearing would occur on the Property for each hole, the access road, the clubhouse/parking lot complex, the practice range, the maintenance facility, the restrooms, and the irrigation pond. Tree clearing may also occur in forested areas between tee and fairways to provide lines of sight. Interior forest bird nesting habitat is likely present within and adjacent to the Project boundary and would essentially be eliminated. Wildlife species inhabiting these areas would be permanently impacted by the loss of habitat. 

However, impact to these species is not expected to create a significant effect on regional populations.

*  Page 63: Kohler has stated that the lakeshore and associated dune habitats are essential to the natural and minimalistic golf course design.

Some trees bordering the beach would be removed, allowing longer sight lines between the Project and Lake Michigan. Trees present in dune habitat that is utilized by a rare species may not be able to be removed unless additional authorizations are obtained (i.e., an incidental take permit). Additionally, the number and area of trees removed would have to be reviewed to determine the potential impacts on the beach/dune community. 

*  Pages 69-70:

Summary of Adverse Impacts That Cannot Be Avoided
The site’s nearly 100% forested canopy would be reduced by nearly half. Habitat value will diminish along forest edges near turf grass and human use areas.

Approximately 3.7 acres of wetland would be lost due to filling including impacts to approximately 1.36 acres of Great Lakes ridge and swale wetlands, a wetland type that is considered “imperiled” in Wisconsin. Additional wetland impacts resulting from alterations to wetland hydrology and the influence of increased nutrients could change the wetland type and allow encroachment of invasive species.

Reduction of the forest to 50 percent cover would result in a substantial reduction of available migratory bird stopover habitat on the Kohler Property. Interior forest bird nesting habitat is likely present within and adjacent to the Project boundary and would essentially be eliminated...

Short term adverse impacts that cannot be avoided include approximately two years of construction traffic, noise, and dust. Hikers on the Black River Trail near the Black River would be the Kohler-Andrae patrons most likely to notice construction noise and changed aesthetics...

It is unknown to what extent storm water infiltration and nutrient and pesticide applications to fairways, tees and greens (for either establishment or maintenance) would impact groundwater quality in this permeable soil and shallow water table environment.
I encourage people to read the entire document. It includes projections of benefits, including increased taxes paid, jobs created during construction and everyday operations, destination benefits to the area's economy, and more.

But after looking at the pros and cons, and knowing that the project is in an area with many golfing opportunities - - it would be the fifth such major Kohler development relatively close by - -  and then finally reading this tidbit on page 58 of the EIS:
The Riverdale Country Club, an 18-hole public golf course, is approximately one-half mile west of the Kohler Property...
I decided it was time to take another walk in Lake Park. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Controversial paved trail/bridge up north on 1/24 env. agenda

You may remember that Elizabeth Uihlein, a major Walker/Trump/GOP mover-shaker-and-donor who lives in Illinois, closed a controversial deal with the DNR for some Manitowish Waters 
Image result
shoreline land up north.
In 2015, her plan to buy frontage from the DNR on Rest Lake that would give her residential complex direct access to the lake came under fire. The Natural Resources Board tabled the sale in September 2015 after critics raised questions about why the DNR would sell lake frontage. 
Others questioned whether Uihlein was getting special treatment. Uihlein ultimately got the land. In July, the DNR announced a land swap that gave the agency nearly 43 acres and 2,100 feet of frontage on Mann Lake, also in Vilas County, that Uihlein and her husband purchased to facilitate the deal.
And she favored the construction of a paved bike path and bridge over sturgeon breeding waters in the area - - a plan that also raised a controversy, so the DNR side-tracked it. 
A key supporter of the project is Elizabeth Uihlein...through a spokesman, she said she did not have any direct involvement in the project. Still, Uihlein has said she will help to pay for the trail and she has made it clear to local officials that she expects the trail to be built.
Now the bridge and biking path is on an already crowded and consequential January 24th meeting agenda - - which the DNR helped put together with and for its oversight arm, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board - - as item 5.B.3.

The item, which includes a sign-off approval recommendation from DNR Secretary Dan Meyer, calls for the acceptance of donations to pay for the $1.15 million bike path and bridge.

Note also that there is a hearing scheduled, and a comment period established for the project five days after the 1/24 Natural Resources Board meeting on 1/29 in Manitowish Waters at 10:00 a.m., at the Manitowish Waters Town Hall, 5733 Airport Rd., Manitowish Waters, WI 54545:

Notice of Pending Application/Public Hearing for Proposed Bridge
Jeff Pennucci, 107 Sutliff Ave., Rhinelander, WI 54501 has applied to the Department of Natural Resources for a permit to construct a bridge over the Manitowish River.

The project is located in the SE1/4 of the NE1/4 of Section 7, Township 42 North, Range 5 East, Town of Manitowish Waters, Vilas County.

The project consists of constructing a 182’ long, 10’ wide clear span pedestrian bridge across the Manitowish river. The bridge is proposed to be supported by concrete abutments set atop helical pilings, and will span from upland to upland on each side of the river. The bridge clearance over the river is proposed to be approximately 8’ during normal water levels.

The Department will review the proposal provided by the applicant and any information from public comments and the public informational hearing. 

The Department will determine whether the proposal complies with ss. 1.11 and 30.123(8), Stats., and ch. NR 150, Wis. Adm. Code, and ensure that the required mitigation meets the standards in s. 281.36(3r), Stats. if the project impacts wetlands.

The Department has made a tentative determination that it will issue the permit or contract for the proposed activity.

If you would like to know more about this project or would like to see the application and plans, please visit the Department’s permit tracking website at and search for WP-IP-NO-2017-64- X12-19T15-01-02.

Reasonable accommodation, including the provision of informational material in an alternative format, will be provided for qualified individuals with disabilities upon request.

The public hearing is scheduled for Monday January 29th at 10:00 a.m. at the Manitowish Waters Town Hall located at 5733 Airport Rd., Manitowish Waters, WI 54545.

The Department scheduled a public hearing on this activity or project because the Department received a request for a public hearing. 

The hearing will be a public informational hearing where members of the public can learn more about the proposed activity and submit written or oral comments about the waterway and project in light of the legal standards above.

Any member of the public may submit written comments by emailing or writing to Kyle McLaughlin, 107 Sutliff Avenue, , Rhinelander, WI 54501 by U.S. mail. 

Comments should include the docket number or applicant name, and should relate to whether the project meets the legal standards listed above. Comments must be postmarked no later than 10 days after the date that the public informational hearing is completed in order for them to be considered.

The final decision may be appealed as indicated in the decision document.
Docket Number IP-NO-2017-64-04529
For the Secretary
____________________________________________ Kyle McLaughlin
Water Management Specialist
January 10, 2018 Date

Schimel tag teams Walker/GOP 'chamber of commerce' governance

Wisconsin GOP Gov. and big business bellhop Scott Walker's 'chamber of commerce' style of governing just got another rousing endorsement from his Capitol sidekick GOP AG Brad Schimel:
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel’s appointment of a lawyer and former dairy industry lobbyist to lead the environmental protection unit of the Justice Department has drawn objections from the leader of a public interest law firm and concerns from a former secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.

What makes this stinky tale even more foul is that the key environmental oversight job in the AG's office was available because David Ross, Schimel's previous lead pro-business 'environmental watchdog' brought in from the outside to give business interests another leg up, had been called to Washington, DC to help US EPA wrecker Scott Pruitt apply Trump's deregulating, polluting reach.

Not long ago, these environmental responsibilities in the AG's office were managed by Tom Dawson, a career, civil service attorney - - whom Schimel needed to push aside, then out, to get the AG's office better aligned with Walker's manure-flowing, wetland-filling, Foxconn-exempting, mine waste leaching, algae-blooming, donor-serving agenda.

For the record, Dawson had been one of the lawyers who had staffed the state's now-dismantled Public Intervenors Office.

It was a small but effective office with attorneys who represented the Wisconsin public interest in environmental cases against the private sector's always-available battery of lawyers and trade associations and lobbyists - - until it was trashed budgetarily by then-Gov. Tommy Thompson to assuage his business community base and, for good measure, to stick it to his then-nemesis, Attorney General Jim Doyle, (D).

That outrageous power play which helped lay the groundwork for the pollution and privatization agenda Walker, Schimel and GOP legislators now tag team against the public interest on a regular basis was explored in depth by veteran environmental attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin. A snippet:

  1. In keeping with Wisconsin's populist roots, the Public Intervenors' government watchdog function not only protected Wisconsin citizens' right to an accountable and effective government but also championed the right to obtain complete and accurate information regarding issues of importance to the public good and to Wisconsin's natural resources. Finally, the Public Intervenor's Office provided an important benefit to Wisconsin's business community by reducing legal uncertainty, serving as an industry problem- solver, and protecting Wisconsin's tourism industry. 
Know your history. It's a must-read.

Final thought:

As hundreds more Wisconsin waterways end up on the polluted list and wetlands are targeted for filling and wells in Kewaunee County test positive for feedlot contaminants, Thompson's role in weakening clean air and water protections could be explored by that new leadership center on the UW Madison campus which bears his name.

How exactly did Thompson lead us to our polluted state?

As I said, know your history.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Testimony tips for 1/24 state env. meeting; comment deadline, 1/19 a.m.

Thinking about attending, speaking at or sending comments for a pivotal meeting of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board in Madison on January 24th?

The good folks at Midwest Environmental Advocates have written up and posted information about the key issues to help.

Here is the meeting agenda item; note that there are important deadlines fast approaching and procedural guidelines you must follow:

View Wisconsin Natural Resources Board agendas, meeting calendar, webcasts, biographies and public participation info online.
Meeting at:
Room G09, State Natural Resources Building (GEF 2)
101 South Webster Street
Madison, Wisconsin
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Public Participation Deadline: NRB Liaison receipt of your request to testify and/or written comment is 11:00 a.m. on Friday, January 19, 2018. 

That contact person Laurie Ross, NRB Liaison, at 608-267-7420, or by email at with NRB related questions, to request information, to submit written comments, to register to attend a Board tour, and to register to testify at a meeting or listening session.

The Board will be considering new rules to limit manure contamination

and, separately, changes to the way state parks are managed which could effect everything from approving snowmobile and ATV use where they are currently disallowed to perhaps enabling the Kohler golf course development which intends to use the Kohler Andrae State Park access road and entrance and even acquire acreage inside the popular park for a maintenance storage facility.

Related summary blog post and commentary here:

 The Wisconsin DNR and its oversight body, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, are moving towards opening more state park land to snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. Want a quiet hike? Photograph the birds? 'Go elsewhere' is the state's message. 
*  The Board will discuss the plan at the same meeting in Madison on January 24th where it will also take up DNR-proposed fee increases at some popular state parks.
It becomes easier to turn a blind eye to environmental degradation and water pollution if you treat public resources as profit centers and commodities.
And selling state land, transferring it to wealthy private businesses, or giving special interests with strong lobbies more one-sided access to it becomes normalized if you have systematically cut state science budgets, staff positions and public parks' funding in the name of very situational small government ideology which, truth be told, is more about boosting donors and businesses' bottom lines using public resources while turning the public sector and the Wisconsin Idea into memories.

Stung by blue wave defeat, Walker amps up war on poor

On the eve of his State of the State free campaign ad speech, today is the right time to remind everyone that almost seven years ago, Walker used his first budget proposal to define who he was and how low he'd go by snatching $20 worth of food off poor Wisconsinites' kitchen tables. 

Every month. Because he could. As I wrote at the time:
It's right there in the budget, on page 65, in the "Health and Human Services" section: 
"To further encourage W-2 recipients to recognize that the goal of W-2 is for participants to secure unsubsidized employment, reduce the monthly benefit check by $20." 
And there's something corrosively appalling - - but certainly not surprising - - that this career politician in his 26th year at the public trough who's taking down $12,000 a month and living in a taxpayer-provided lakefront mansion with a fancy new kitchen would react to an unexpected career-threatening special election loss by elevating his last campaign's dog-whistling low point with fresh poor-bashing designed to signal his GOP base voters that, on their dime, some lazy so-and-sos are getting something they don't deserve, and Big Daddy Walker will put a stop to it: 
The GOP governor is pushing for a series of welfare bills, including requiring able-bodied parents of children on food stamps to work or get training to receive more than three months of benefits and increasing the existing work requirement for all able-bodied adults from 20 hours a week to 30.
So screw the crumbling roads, cash-starved schools, damaged environment and polluted waters he's enabled, but ignores, since screwing the less powerful makes this guy feel like the leader he'll never be.

Coexist, updated, and writ large

There was a spirited debate in some corners of the community and blogosphere more than ten years ago over the arrival in the area of "Coexist" bumper stickers which pleased many people, upset others, and drove thousands of readers to download this post.

I want to add to the topic this awesome display in front of a home in Whitefish Bay.
A bit of encouraging commentary on the current political environment, it is.

Walker normalizing sacrifice of WI lands, public spaces

The business-obeisant managers running Scott Walker's 'chamber of commerce mentality' Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies want to wrench more peace, quiet, stewardship and affordable access from some of the best public natural spaces in Wisconsin.

The signs are everywhere and they put to shame the ethic and legacy of Wisconsin's historic conservationists John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson.

*  The Wisconsin DNR and its oversight body, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, are moving towards opening more state park land to snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. Want a quiet hike? Photograph the birds? 'Go elsewhere' is the state's message.

*  The Board will discuss the plan at the same meeting in Madison on January 24th where it will also take up DNR-proposed fee increases at some popular state parks.

If approved, the increases would be the second since 2015 when Walker and the Legislature through the budget stripped the parks of operating funding and put them on a faster-track to private exploitation. 

* The DNR yesterday approved a foot-in-the-door wetlands-filling permit that will help allow Kohler corporate interests to convert a 247-acre privately-owned nature preserve 

along the Lake Michigan shoreline south of Sheboygan into a high-end, privately-operated 18-hole golf course, club house and other amenities.

The project would will impact wildlife habitat, nearby residences, ground and surface waters and adjoining Kohler Andrae State Park's scenic beaches, hiking trails and popular camping destinations. 

The developers also want exclusive use of at least five acres of public land in the state park for an equipment building, and also seek use of the park entrance for golfers, diners and expected tournament visitors' access.

* With the support of then-DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, the Legislature ordered the DNR to sell 10,000 acres of state land - - more or less having pulled the number out of thin air. It didn't take long for one deal to raise the appearance of favoritism  - - and I see a straight line from that deal to the one sought by the golf course project into Kohler Andrae State Park.

It becomes easier to turn a blind eye to environmental degradation and water pollution if you treat public resources as profit centers and commodities.

And selling state land, transferring it to wealthy private businesses, or giving special interests with strong lobbies more one-sided access to it becomes normalized if you have systematically cut state science budgets, staff positions and public parks' funding in the name of very situational small government ideology which, truth be told, is more about boosting donors and businesses' bottom lines using public resources while turning the public sector and the Wisconsin Idea into memories.

Walker's Politics of Indifference ignores base, basics

[Updated from 1/17/18] It's bad for Wisconsin. The turn-around can happen in November.

Let's start by saying that Katherine J. Cramer's 2016 brilliantly-constructed book The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the rise of Scott Walker remains a must-read.  As the publisher explains: 
Rural voters are distrustful that politicians will respect the distinct values of their communities and allocate a fair share of resources. ... Using Scott Walker and Wisconsin’s prominent and protracted debate about the appropriate role of government, Cramer illuminates the contours of rural consciousness, showing how place-based identities profoundly influence how people understand politics, regardless of whether urban politicians and their supporters really do shortchange or look down on those living in the country.
And while Walker has tapped into that dynamic - - and a heavily-gerrymandered Legislature didn't hurt - - I'd argue that of late he's taking his successes for granted and following a counter and potentially self-destructive path - - the Politics of Indifference - - when it comes to much of his base, and to basic governance, too.

Exhibit "A?" Yesterday's solid defeat in North Western Wisconsin of a key Walker GOP legislative ally in a special State Senate election for a seat which Republicans have held for the last sixteen years.

Here are several more substantive examples where Walker's stale careerism,  distraction by presidential ambition and mail-it-in lassitude towards a base he's taking for granted could spark his undoing in November, 2018.

*  The news that chronic wasting disease (CWD) - - see state map of effected counties - - in the wild deer herd has been discovered in Milwaukee County - - the state's most populous - - is one startling example of a basic, known problem that Scott Walker has failed to successfully address since being sworn in as Governor in January, 2011, as outdoors writer Patrick Durkin noted last year. 
The DNR failed to adequately test the 10-mile radius around a 2011 CWD case in Washburn County; and more recently it’s failed to scientifically assess the 10-mile radiuses around CWD discoveries on private deer farms in Marathon, Oneida, Oconto, Shawano and Waupaca counties...
The DNR even put its policy in writing seven years ago on page 22 of the state’s 2010-2025 CWD response plan: “DNR staff, landowners, and hunters will be asked to assist with additional sampling … to define the extent of the disease. … The number of samples collected will be sufficient to be 95 percent confident of detecting the highest level of disease prevalence.
When Gov. Scott Walker’s administration took office in January 2011, it ignored that policy in the Washburn County case, which brought this rebuke from James Kroll, the governor’s “deer czar” in 2012:
“The reaction to the … infected deer … should have included a faster response to determine the extent of distribution. Waiting until deer season in fall 2012 to sample for CWD is not adequate. A proper approach would have been use of a health check/surveillance team … deployed immediately on such a finding. … Once the geographic context is determined, the appropriate action should be focused, localized eradication.”
And Durkin wrote separately that testing for the disease has actually fallen during Walker's tenure: 
Unfortunately, CWD testing in Wisconsin has plummeted in recent years because of budget cuts and the end of in-person deer registration in 2015. From 2002 through 2006 the Department of Natural Resources averaged 25,858 CWD tests annually. 
Soon after, lawmakers like former Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, slashed CWD funding, causing CWD tests to average 9,053 from 2007 through 2010, a nearly three-fold decline. Since 2010, the DNR has averaged a record low 5,545 CWD tests annually, even while documenting record CWD cases, including 447 in 2016.
What constituency, exactly, does less CWD testing serve as the disease is expanding? 

*  Likewise, what constituencies - - rural well water users, outdoors' business owners, anglers, hunters, hikers - - are served by the skyrocketing numbers of polluted waterways in the state, as well as the expanding numbers of big farms and dairy operations whose fertilizers and manure runoff downstream or leach into the water table?

*  Same questions as Walker transfers hundreds of millions of dollars in state transportation funding, plus billions in state tax breaks to the Foxconn project in the Southeastern corner of the state while roads statewide have deteriorated to the second worst in the country. 

The story that some paved rural roads in Wisconsin are returning to gravel, and who's responsible for it, got a lot of attention: 
Local leaders ...say Wisconsin state government has put them in a bind when it comes to paying for roads. State funding for local governments in the form of municipal aid has been cut over the last decade, while local transportation funding has remained roughly flat.
The state has also limited how much towns can raise from local property taxpayers, and those limits grew stricter under Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Walker has proposed increasing local transportation aid by 8.5 percent in the next budget. While that would be the largest increase in the past decade, the Wisconsin Towns Association said it would translate to roughly $10,000 for the average town, enough for road maintenance but not much else. That means even if the funding is approved by the state Legislature, it will be hard for towns to undo trends that are years in the making.
*   Speaking of trends, Wisconsin families looking to use some of our most popular state parks are looking at yet another round of admission and user fees set in motion by Walker's 2015 budget which withdrew all state parks' operating funding. 

And the Walker administration is about to approve the transfer of acreage in one of those popular destinations - - Kohler Andrae State Park south of Sheboygan on the Lake Michigan shoreline - - to help enable the construction of a private golf course planned by one of Walker's big campaign donors.

How is it special interests like donors, or Foxconn keep getting more and more resources from the state while everyday campers, or well water users or motorists get the shaft?

* A final, Walker-initiated disparity: While he brags about school funding he's added in his latest budget, remember:

The new money does not make classroom funding whole after his huge school financing cuts he laid down in his first budget.

Secondly, because he was in a tiff with Assembly Republicans over embarrassing budget delays, Walker actually vetoed an Assembly-crafted plan to send extra funding to lower-enrollment, fiscally-strapped, predominantly rural schools.

Like his sudden rush as election day approaches to fix the nightmarish disintegration on his watch at the violence-wracked Lincoln Hills youth prison, Walker is looking to craft and have passed a substitute measure to get the rural schools some of the funding they need.

But he was willing to use schools in rural counties which make up an important part of his electoral base as pawns in his intra-party spat with Vos and Assembly Republicans while posing to the state as the fiscally-prudent budget executive.

Time will tell if Walker's got enough Teflon and camouflage and ad spinning dollars to fool the people one more time.

Progressives and grassroots activists and Democratic opponents should be able to defeat Walker's Politics of Indifference with passionate organizing, clear-mindedness about the role of government and an agenda of equity, honesty and empathy.

And because potholes, polluted water, rampant wildlife disease, subsidies for multi-billion dollar foreign businesses, short-changed schools and parks with higher admission fees while donors get all the parkland they want isn't the Wisconsin we want.

WI DNR says Kohler can take wetlands

[Updated from 1/17/18]: The DNR approved the golf course wetland permit - - a key step in the process. Further approvals, including the award of adjoining state parkland and other outcomes, are likely to follow. Also likely to follow - - litigation. The initial version of this post incorrectly said DNR had approved the parkland transfer. Not yet - - and the DNR's oversight Board will reviews parks' management master planning next Friday, perhaps providing an easier route for what Kohler wants.]

Losing wetlands and a nature preserve 

along Lake Michigan?

From Walker and the DNR, thumbs up.

The Journal Sentinel lays out the massive environmental costs.

Readers of this blog know I have been following for years the proposed flattening by a Walker donor of a nature preserve for a high-end golf course adjacent to Kohler Andrae State Park - - a plan also enabled by a Rube Goldberg annexation and headed for more facilitation by the DNR's oversight board next week - - so readers here will not be shocked to learn the DNR, driven by Walker-appointed pro-business managers, says today that the golf course plan meets what's left of Wisconsin environmental standards and law
The DNR issued a final environmental impact statement and its responses to public comments about the project, which would disturb wetlands and require the use of five acres of a popular state park on Lake Michigan. 
The 18-hole course would be built mostly on Kohler Co. land, but the developers are seeking an easement to build a maintenance facility and to run traffic through a portion of the Kohler-Andrae State Park near Sheboygan

Big win for Walker's 'chamber of commerce mentality' governance.

For everyone else, a further loss of water and property rights. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fake fiscal conservatives push Foxconn handouts to $4.5 billion

The con is getting more expensive and it could outfox Walker.

Raise your hand if you are surprised that the unprecedented $3 billion subsidy package showered on on Foxconn just a few months ago by Walker and his band of GOP small government legislative hypocrites has already ballooned to a projected $4.5 billion, state government data show.

Seeing no hands raised, read on.

That's $4.5 billion not available statewide for schools still not made whole from Walker's first budget's massive cuts, roads rated second-worst nationally, and entrepreneurial, start-up business growth in which Wisconsin is repeatedly rated dead last.

Running around the state as Walker does in a red pullover from the UW-Madison he did not attend, whose budgets he's cut and whose faculty he's kicked around will fade as a workable distraction as his re-election campaign slogs on under the weight of his bad Foxconn bet with other people's money no longer available to fix hometown problems.

And failing to be a job-creator when even today there's a plant closing in Walker's Waukesha base county that includes the loss of dozens of long-standing, good-paying union jobs will confront Walker on the campaign trail.

Where Walker saying 'Foxconn 2020 or 2030 or 20-never,' or 'calling all Chicago millennials' won't satisfactorily answer in Northern or Western Wisconsin or in Milwaukee or the Fox Valley for laid-off workers at Oscar Mayer, Caterpillar, or GE Waukesha, or Marathon County paper mills, or Manitowoc machine works the 'what have you done for me lately' question.

"Follow the money' will become 'where's our money?"

Here's one post about Foxconn continually updated since July.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Upset! GOP loses safe NW WI State Senate seat

Blue wave alert from Walker-Trump country in Northwestern Wisconsin:

Noted far-right Republican and anti-environmental water-carrier State Rep. Adam Jarchow was beaten decisively by a Democrat:
Patty Schachtner defeated Republican state Rep. Adam Jarchow for an open state Senate seat Tuesday in an upset victory for struggling Wisconsin Democrats, signaling voter anger toward President Donald Trump that could cost the GOP more legislative seats in the fall elections.
Schachtner, a former EMT, serves on a local school board and is the St. Croix County Medical Examiner.

The Senate seat Jarchow lost had been held by Republicans for the last 17 years.
Adam Jarchow.jpg
Jarchow has been pushing to open a million or so acres of state-protected wetlands to development.

He is also a leading co-sponsor of a controversial bill to allow wolves in Wisconsin to be shot on sight even though Wisconsin wolves are protected by a federal court order.

The measure would also prevent any Wisconsin police officer or state official from enforcing the current federal ban on killing Wisconsin wolves, jeopardizing the receipt of millions of dollars in federal wildlife and habitat funding.

Waterway pollution in WI skyrockets during Walker, GOP reign

[Updated from 1/15/18] Walker says he's taking Wisconsin in the right direction, but if that leads to state waters, don't smell, drink or fish it, his own data show.

You might urge media and others to remind Walker of the increasing waterway pollution across Wisconsin on his watch documented in the posting that follows, and also that he's said here and here and elsewhere that he always leaves the environment cleaner than he found it.

The data show the opposite; official auditing shows Wisconsin ignored its water pollution enforcement rules 94% of the time while inspections were declining as a matter of policy.

Some good news: Legislators are working to require the DNR to issues public notices of water pollution permit violations, correcting creating a public information 'system' that didn't require any public notifications.

And, yes, it's hard to track and keep straight all the legislation and executive actions since early 2011 that are intentionally undermining public health and enabling contamination and filth for profit in Wisconsin - - from wetlands filling to shoreline construction to green-lit groundwater contamination from big feedlots to new toxic sulfide mining permissions to proposed rollbacks in air quality to already-implemented, freshly-tolerated, algae-breeding phosphorous discharges into state waterways that all belong to the public.

And mentally underline "phosphorous" as you focus 
on just two facts gathered from the links that follow:

*  There has been a doubling under Walker of the number of polluted waterways in the state since his 2011 swearing-in.

*  And there have been more than eight times as many waterways - - 804 - - newly added to the official polluted lists - - government likes the sanitized label "impaired" - -  than the 96 waterways improved enough to be removed from the lists. 

Grasping that is part of the battle to keep up with all the cuts and their implications by Walker, the GOP Legislature and compliant Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources big business obeisant management to the agency’s mission, staffing, budgets, and science that are designed to reward polluters and more easily degrade the state's environmental legacy and obligations.
And let's further agree that when Walker travels to faraway places like China he can wax talking point, fact-checking free about water quality - - 
"This partnership will allow Wisconsin’s leadership in clean water and energy to reach new heights,” said Governor Scott Walker. 
- - even though he is undermined on water quality leadership from border to border back home by information posted by his own administration that shows he is not leaving the water cleaner than he found it.

Read through the links and data bases in the information below - - and, remember, the numbers are Walker's and are on his administration's web pages (until they go the way of the DNR's scrubbed climate science page, perhaps).

So when Walker comes to your town for your vote, and you see your lake, or river and stream segments on his lists, ask him why.

And why the summary numbers are diving in the wrong direction statewide.

And what he's done lately to make your waters more drinkable, fishable, swimmable, and boatable.

After all, who gets a contract extension, in baseball or politics, if you're batting .125?

*  Here is a link to the official DNR 2012 list, which covers the last year of the Jim Doyle administration and the first year of Walker's, and text from the DNR's  summary: 
Every two years, Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states to publish a list of all waters that are not meeting water quality standards. The existing Impaired Waters List includes more than 700 rivers, streams and lakes. In the 2012 list, updates include 147 new waters to the list. Twenty-eight waters were delisted, including three streams that have been successfully restored: German Valley Branch in Dane County and Eagle and Joos Valley Creeks in Buffalo County.
*  Here is the DNR link to the 2014 list. Again, the trends were not good:
In the 2014 list update, DNR added 192 new waters. A majority of the listing additions were waters that exceed total phosphorus criteria. A significant number of new listings were also based on poor biological condition. Read more about specific restorations and/or search and learn about Wisconsin’s impaired waters with the Impaired Waters Search Tool. [How to use the Search Tool]
Using the search tool, I count 23 deletions.

*  More lopsided data on the DNR list for 2016 in favor of pollution: 
In the proposed 2016 list update, DNR proposes to add 225 new waters. A majority of the listing additions were waters that exceed total phosphorus criteria. A significant number of new listings were also based on poor biological condition. Ten waterbodies are proposed to be delisted.
*  Same story in the 2018 list
In the proposed 2018 list update, DNR proposes to add 240 new water segments. A majority of the listing additions were waters that exceed total phosphorus criteria. Thirty-five waterbodies are proposed to be delisted. 
So allowing for some portion of the total to have taken place in one year of the Doyle era, and also allowing for some late changes, the cumulative numbers in these reports which encompass most of Walker's tenure show the addition of 804 newly listed polluted waterways to the "more than 700" cited in 2012.

The additions, 804, outpaced deletions, 96, by a ratio of more than eight-to-one, and leaves Walker with about double what he inherited.

Impaired waters in Wisconsin are affected by a variety of pollutants. The top three are: mercury, total phosphorus and sediment... 
Note that mercury contamination is clustered heavily in 146 Northern Wisconsin waterways that are under consumption restrictions.
While natural erosion produces nearly 30 percent of the total sediment in the United States, erosion from human use of land accounts for the remaining 70 percent. In agricultural watersheds, the most significant source of sediment is tilled fields....Improperly managed construction sites also contribute significant amounts of sediment to local waterways; up to 25 times that of agricultural lands (Chesters, 1979) and 2,000 times that of forested lands (EPA 833–F–00–008, R 12/2005 [PDF exit DNR])... 
Phosphorus has long been recognized as the controlling factor in plant and algae growth in Wisconsin lakes and streams. Small increases in phosphorus can fuel substantial increases in aquatic plant and algae growth, which in turn can reduce recreational use, property values and public health.
  • Many lakes and streams are listed as impaired due to phosphorus pollution or sediment, decreasing their recreational value and economic impact.
  • Dozens of waters statewide experience harmful algal blooms fueled by the nutrient and last year, 35 people in Wisconsin reported human health concerns and the death of at least two dogs due to blue–green algae.
  • Department of Health Services Blue–Green Algae [exit DNR]
  • Smelly cladophora fueled by phosphorus washes ashore Lake Michigan beaches. 
  • Recent statewide stream assessment data suggests that thousands of streams may have excess phosphorus levels. In addition to decreasing the dissolved oxygen that fish and other aquatic creatures need to survive, such excess phosphorus causes major changes in lake and stream food webs, which ultimately result in fewer fish and fish predators.