Welcome to Oneida County Clean Waters Action
Exploring the issues that affect our rivers, lakes and ground water.
Exploring the issues that affect our rivers, lakes and ground water.
OCCWA advocates non-partisan responsible representation at the local and state government levels for protecting our greatest in the Northwoods: our pristine waters, wetlands, forests and clean air.
This OCCWA website serves as your resource for news about environmental issues that impact Oneida County in northern Wisconsin.
By Eric Rempala
September 30 2022- Wisconsin's Green Fire has released a detailed and important policy assessment report on how the legislature, courts and special interests have re-shaped state government in recent years as a tool that benefits special interests and disempowers state agencies and the public on environmental policies.
We at OCCWA have opined in the past that Wisconsin's State Legislature has taken action to strip away local control. This report by Wisconsin's Green Fire documents in great detail how the loss of local control was accomplished. Below are excerpts from the report of some of these actions.
" * 2011 Wisconsin Act 21, which gave significant new powers to the legislature and limited agency authority in reviewing and approving new administrative rules.
* 2017 Wisconsin Act 57, which further limited agencies’ ability to develop administrative rules by establishing lower thresholds for economic impact analysis and allowing legislative committees to block rules for indefinite periods of time.
* 2017 Wisconsin Act 39, which created a 30-month deadline for development of new administrative rules and nullified all work on any rules not completed in that time frame.
* A series of legislative changes between 2011 and 2018 removed local control from communities, preventing them from developing locally-based standards for environmental protection.
* Coordinated efforts between Wisconsin Senate leadership and appointees of Gov. Scott Walker’s administration to prevent Governor Tony Evers from seating appointees, including seats on the Natural Resources Board. "
We are providing links below of Green Fire's press release and detailed report.
Wisconsin’s Green Fire Releases Opportunities Now Report “Imbalance of Power – How Wisconsin is Failing Citizens in Conserving Natural Resources and Protecting our Environment” - Wisconsin’s Green Fire (wigreenfire.org)
By Eric Rempala
September 21, 2022-
Mining Update- The Metallic Sulfide Mining front has moved for the time being to Marathon County. Specifically, just east of Wausau in the town of Easton where the Reef deposit is located. The people of Marathon County are now facing the same challenge we in Oneida County have met in the past. Green Light Metals the exploratory company who currently has multiple interests in our county are now focusing on the Reef Deposit with potential for as many as 500 core drillings going forward. This drilling is particularly concerning since the DNR does not specifically test drilling fluid for PFAS. (See article posted here June 25 PFAS in Drilling Fluids?) We here at OCCWA have been assisting locals in Marathon County to get up to speed on the environmental risks this type of mining presents. Northern Wisconsin needs to stand together opposed to this type of mining in our water rich area.
Zoning Change Proposal- OCCWA will be soliciting towns to consider petitioning the County to change zoning for mining to a separate zone of Industrial Mining rather than being allowed in zones 1A Forestry and General Use which comprises' the bulk of the land in Oneida County. What this will accomplish is, if an entity wishes to mine in Oneida County, they will need to apply for a zoning change to their property before they can commence. Since towns have input in zoning changes this will add a layer of town input to the process. Thus, creating more local control as we have promoted in previous posts.
Shoreland Protection- Oneida County's P&D Committee has been working on changes to shoreland protection with concerning results. Dan Butkus agreed to write a piece for OCCWA which is posted below (Shoreland Protection Ordinance Under Attack) Dans bio is included in his article. What I can add is that there is no person who spends more time and has more knowledge on this issue. We thank Dan for his contributions. Attached below is a DNR link explaining the importance of Shoreland Protection.
CAFO Ordinance- The MSO Manure Storage Ordinance is currently in limbo and Oneida Countys CAFO moratorium has expired. Meaning large feed lot operations are now allowed to permit in county using current rules. For more information see below article (Manure Storage Update 1/21)
OCLRA News- There has been multiple changes at Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association. eNEWS - Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association (oclra.org) Ted Rulseh is now president and there are changes coming in the operations. The OCCWA has worked with the OCLRA in the past and are looking forward to doing so going forward. We have the utmost respect for their members and the work they do.
Also, we would like to congratulate Ted Rulseh, who has recently published his new book Ripple Effects, link provided below.
By Dan Butkus
September 20, 2022- It is understood that ordinances attempt to balance environmental protection and public safety against individual property rights. There is always an ebb and flow depending on the political climate and development of new data. Recently, however, Oneida County has decided to push the pendulum completely to one side in the name of property rights, individualism, and an unorthodox policy that “I can do what I want on my own property”, even if that is to the detriment to a neighbor, or a lake as a whole.
It is said that government can work slowly. And over the years, in Oneida County, this has been very true. Over the last three years, very few protections were incorporated in the Shoreland Protection Ordinance (SPO), and some regulations disappeared, such as the piers and docks ordinance. But they have taken a long time to come to pass and often take a very circuitous route to get there. The recent wholesale revision of the SPO began over two years ago. Who would have guessed it would take a sudden U-turn at the last minute? Instead of bolstering and clarifying the SPO as originally intended, a couple of individuals simply decided to gut the SPO.
The story can be picked up with single incident of shoreland ordinance violations on Two Sisters Lake back in 2019. Complaints were filed with Zoning. A group of citizens along with Zoning and the DNR attempted to tackle the language in the SPO to clarify issues. It took 16 months from the initial complaint to January 2021 when it was first brought to light at a Planning and Development Committee meeting. The revision was presented in February 2021 and rejected with derision. Government works slowly. Eight months pass, and in August 2021, P&D Committee Chair, Scott Holewinski, expounded on what he would like to see in the SPO revision. There was a 26 minute discussion asking for what can and cannot be done in the Access and Viewing Corridor. Most of what was pitched that day would have gotten support from shoreland property owners on not just Two Sisters Lake, but most lakes in the county. The Zoning Department was given instruction. Five more months elapse when the topic appeared on the January, 2022 P&D agenda. It is quickly tabled to an unspecified future meeting date. Two months later, in March 2022, P&D holds a listening session with landscapers. The SPO revisions languished while county board elections take place and Scott Holewinski is elevated to County Chair, still retaining his seat as Chair of P&D. Three months after the listening session, publisher Gregg Walker asked to speak to the P&D Committee while Scott is on holiday in Africa. Mr. Walker spends nearly an hour demanding that the SPO be gutted. July, 2022 an SPO revision appears. It is everything Mr. Walker wanted and contained nothing from the years of work and research that came to pass since the complaints on Two Sisters Lake. Government works slowly, unless and until it doesn’t. Then it moves so rapidly to undo what took years to create.
Effectively, the Shoreland Protection Ordinance revision seeks to strip the ordinance of any permitting requirements for land disturbance, construction, and vegetation removal within the Access and Viewing Corridor. The Wild West is at our doorstep. It was done in the name of simplification. It was done in the name of property rights. But what they won’t tell you is that it was done because they are lazy and find enforcement of ordinances too hard, and beyond their toothless abilities.
This revision is currently before the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for review. Initial talk is that the DNR mostly rejects the revisions. But no matter the final outcome of that review, this is not the end of it. Planning and Development will continue to look for ways to weaken the ordinance. The people of Oneida County should be aware that their lake protections are being gutted. It is time we stand up and oppose this revision. Eventually, it will have to go to a public hearing. Make your voices heard. Write or call your County Supervisor and voice your concerns now.
As for me, I’d like to know whatever became of the ideas Scott Holewinski generated on August 25th, 2021? They were pretty darned good. The tabled discussion was never brought back.
Dan Butkus is a non-resident property owner on Squash Lake. He is the Treasurer for the Squash Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District, and currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Wisconsin Lakes, a state-wide organization for lake associations and lake districts. He represents the Northern Region for Wisconsin Lakes. His property on Squash Lake has been in his family for over 65 years. He currently lives in Waunakee, WI with his wife MaryJane and their dog Max. He frequently attends Planning and Development meetings via Zoom and stays actively involved in Oneida County environmental affairs.
By Eric Rempala
June 25 2022- Recently I attended several DNR zoom meetings pertaining to PFAS. In the recent light of the state of Colorado banning all PFAS from drilling fluids, one of the questions I had posed was are the DNR's approved drilling fluids used for drilling core samples in mining exploration tested physically for PFAS content. The answer I was hoping for was yes, period, end of story. That unfortunately was not the answer I received.
Below is a recent press release out of Langlade County. Also, at the bottom of this piece are links to the Colorado story and the actual DNR PFAS meetings.
" Langlade County: Wisconsin state regulators do not know if chemicals used for mineral exploration drilling and water well construction are free of PFAS State regulators held two meetings June 17, 2022 during which it became clear that no one is testing drilling fluids and well construction aids for PFAS content. Officials from the Wisconsin DNR confirmed they only look at the Safety-Data-Sheets (SDS’s) supplied by the chemical manufacturers themselves as the sole determination of what is in the products. Most of the products are made by oil & gas industry service companies like Halliburton and Schlumberger. If the SDS doesn’t list “PFAS” as an ingredient, the DNR doesn’t look for it.
Because of an exemption known as the “Halliburton loophole” these chemical manufacturers do not need to disclose the exact make-up of their product mixtures. They simply claim that divulging the true ingredient list would jeopardize trade secrecy and give competitors an unfair advantage. Most drilling fluid Safety-Data-Sheets claim the privilege of not disclosing the full ingredient list because of trade secrecy.
There is another inherent problem with the SDS’s that regulators rely on. OSHA has rules guiding what needs to be listed on SDS’s. If a manufacturer determines that the product contains less than 1% of any ingredient they are not required to list those ingredients. Essentially, what gets shown on an SDS is up to the manufacturer’s own discretion. This discretion is what Wisconsin regulators have been relying on for years.
What about product testing? It was confirmed that state regulators like the Department of Health Services and the Department of Natural Resources do not do any testing to confirm what exactly is in the drilling products. No state agencies do testing for PFAS content or testing to confirm the information on the SDS is accurate.
It was also confirmed that the preeminent testing authority in the nation does not test products used for exploration drilling and well construction for PFAS content. The NSF confirmed that they ‘may’ only test for PFAS content if it is one of the listed ingredients on the chemical labeling. Even though there are over 180 drilling products that carry the NSF logo indicating they are allowed to come in contact with drinking water, this full product listing does not include testing for PFAS content.
Since the manufacturers are incentivized to not list the full ingredient list, this eliminates their need to test drilling fluids for full chemical content. Why would an oil & gas industry supplier test their products to determine if they contain PFAS? If found it would be the end of sales for those products. Conversely, if the manufacturers know their products contain PFAS, but they are allowed to not disclose the full ingredient content, why would they list exactly what is in there? If the SDS or the labeling listed PFAS as an ingredient it would be a giant red flag that the product is not safe.
Who is testing products that are used for drilling holes into the water aquifer? Answer: No one.
There isn’t any comprehensive testing occurring to make sure drilling fluids do not contain PFAS. This reveals the major health concern that from the time a hole is drilled in the search for minerals or water, the chances are high this is when the PFAS contamination cycle begins.
Is anyone doing something about this? Not in Wisconsin – yet. However, on June 3, 2022 Colorado decided to move forward with a law that bans the use of drilling fluids that contain PFAS. Going forward; any manufacturer who wants to offer drilling fluids for drilling exploration holes or water well construction, is going to need to prove it first that the products do not contain PFAS. The burden of full chemical content testing and factual certification is on the manufacturer – not the tax-payer. If the manufacturer wants to sell their products in Colorado they are going to have to prove they are free of PFAS.
These developments should serve as a call to action for Wisconsin state regulators and law-makers to follow the lead of Colorado. If Wisconsin wants to get ahead of the seemingly unending emerging PFAS contamination problem, they need to make sure that the chemicals used from day-one of well drilling are not the source of the problem. Wisconsin needs to ban the use of drilling fluids that contain PFAS – right now."
DNR PFAS technical meeting
DNR PFAS external advisory group
By Karl Fate
June 10 2022- Over the last 35 years I have attended many meetings in the Oneida County Courthouse and the proceedings were never overtly about partisanship or political ideology, but about issues impacting the County, that is how County business is supposed to be conducted.
That all changed when State politician Tom Tiffany decided to meddle in a County Board election. Since that time a certain threatening atmosphere began permeating our Courthouse whenever Tom Tiffany wanted Supervisors to vote a certain way. This culminated in a threat being heard in our County, that the State would take over the Lynne Site and strip the County of local control, if the referendum question on leasing the Lynne Site failed. Fortunately, the voters didn’t fall for the threat, and they voted the question down. It was an empty threat, they all were.
When Supervisors vote against local control, it doesn’t matter what their political party or political ideology is. When Supervisors vote to spend $60,000 to remove protections from their own County, it doesn’t matter what their political party or political ideology is. Everyone in Oneida County should be wondering, who is it that benefits by pitting neighbor against neighbor based on politics? Could it be that someone wants to distract us from what is really going on in our own Courthouse? It is despicable that a local newspaper has been stoking these divisions.
There are several new Supervisors in Oneida County. Most of the incumbent Supervisors voted to remove an important local control from much of the County, and to eliminate several important protections, while spending $60,000 to do it. Some of them were all in on removing these protections, others perhaps, were intimidated into going along.
What is most troubling about what a prior Board did, is that protections for their own County, and the people who live and work here, were removed to promote one the most destructive activities on the Planet, Sulfide Mining, in one of the most water-rich regions of the Planet. And to top it all off, they paid tens of thousands of dollars to have these protections removed and were persuaded to do so with arguments that were utter hogwash.
These are mistakes that can be fixed, but will the new Board have the wisdom to do it?
By Eric Rempala
April 7, 2022- A new start-up mining company has renewed the threat of changing Oneida County into Wisconsin's Mining District. Green Light Metals (GLM) has begun the process of establishing multiple sulfide mines in North Central Wisconsin. GLM's initial attempts will occur at the Bend Deposit in Taylor County and the Reef Deposit in Marathon County, with plans for development of two Oneida County properties named Lobo and Black. GLM's recent power point presentation (see link provided below) illustrates clearly how Oneida County with its multiple deposits would become a part of a mining district, potentially changing the county's landscape going forward. Reviewing the presentation clearly shows the location of two properties in the town of Schoepke and multiple other deposits.
We at OCCWA have spent the last two years attempting to educate the towns as to the threat that Metallic Sulfide Mining poses by having them adopt a resolution to repeal Act 134 and reinstate the Prove It First Law. Nine towns plus the city of Rhinelander have adopted our resolution or some form thereof.
It is clear that the county that we know with clean water, tourism, and vacation property would be severely impacted by acid mine drainage, blasting, and heavy equipment road use. We encourage residents and property owners to oppose this type of development and make your position known to your town, county, and state representatives.
Below is a link to WPR coverage of the potential mines.
Also below is coverage of Minnesota's attempt to prevent Metallic Sulfide Mining by instating a Prove It First Law of their own. Understanding that Minnesota is a mining friendly state but want no part of this type of mining in water rich areas.
By Eric Rempala
March 18, 2022- A recent attempt to change the Knowles Nelson Stewardship has caught our attention here at OCCWA. Assembly Bill 852 presented by Calvin Callahan and Senate Bill 802 presented by Mary Felzkowski on January 18th proposed changes that would make it easier to sell land acquired with Knowles Nelson funding. The Bills were quickly contested by multiple conservation groups and private citizen comments and drawn back for reconsideration. If not for this immediate push back these Bills may have proceeded to vote.
What is Knowles Nelson? A direct quote from their webpage " The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is one of Wisconsin’s proudest achievements. Since 1989, Wisconsinites have come together to care for our state’s land and water as well as build the trails, campgrounds, and boat launches that allow us to get out and enjoy Wisconsin. Knowles-Nelson is a rare bipartisan success story. It is an invaluable program that will continue to thrive only with a strong community of supporters who ensure that Wisconsin’s legislators continue to prioritize protected land, clean water, and access to outdoor recreation for every Wisconsin resident."
We in Oneida County have benefitted greatly from the Knowles Nelson program. Since inception Oneida County has had 88 projects supported with a dollar amount of just under $42 million. Projects consisting of land maintenance, trail construction, and upkeep, to land acquisition. Notable areas include Willow Flowage Scenic Waters Area, American Legion State Forest, Northern Highland State Forest, and Bearskin State Trail. Here is a link to a Knowles Nelson project map. https://knowlesnelson.org
Even the most recently proposed Pelican River State Forest is set to receive funding from the Knowles Nelson Stewardship. https://www.conservationfund.org/impact/press-releases/2589-largest-unprotected-forest-in-wisconsin-secured So one wonders what exactly these two recently proposed Bills by two of our county's state reps is truly trying to accomplish and does it reflect the will of their constituents? We will continue to monitor the situation and help to keep you apprised going forward, though not much is expected now until next year.
Below is a link to an article on the attempted Bill proposals
By Karl Fate
Mar. 4, 2022- Are the water resources of our County important enough that we should vote for their protection? Is local control important enough that we should expect our elected officials to vote in favor of it?
When we cast our votes on April 5th, we should keep these issues in mind. We can examine the voting record for some candidates while they were on the Board, and we can ask the position of candidates that have no voting record.
A new metallic mining ordinance went to public hearing on June 6th, 2018, and was put before the County Board on June 19th, 2018. The new ordinance removes several important protections and is detrimental to local control, allowing metallic sulfide mining and any related infrastructure, as a matter of right, in multiple zoning districts across much of the County. This change precludes a mining company from having to petition to rezone large areas of our County before constructing a sulfide mine, removing an important local control. These changes were widely condemned at the public hearing and before the County Board, but these concerns mostly fell on deaf ears.
Supervisors who voted for this ordinance were, Robb Jensen, Greg Pence, Billy Fried, Lance Krolczyk, Tom Kelly, Jack Sorensen, Dave Hintz, Greg Oettinger, Mike Timmons, Mitchell Ives, Ted Cushing, Bill Liebert, Russ Fisher, Scott Holewinski and Bob Almekinder. Only supervisors Jim Winkler, Alan VanRaalte, Steven Schreier, Bob Mott, and Bob Metropulos, voted against this wildly unpopular mining ordinance. Sonny Paszak was absent for the vote.
This is a voting record on the critical issues of water and local control. Please take this record into consideration when you cast your vote on April 5th.
The following supervisors voted for this ordinance that removed these protections and are challenged on the April 5th ballot: Robb Jensen, Mitchell Ives, Ted Cushing, Bill Liebert, and Scott Holewinski.
Candidates for April 5th 2022 link below:
By Eric Rempala
Mar. 4, 2022- So what are we at OCCWA referring to when we mention local control?
Simply put, it is the ability of the towns in Oneida county to have a say in what is allowed in their town. This ability has been severely impacted by the passage of the Oneida County Mining Ordinance in June 2018. In particular the change in zoning that was a part of the ordinance.
Originally mining was only permitted in areas zoned Manufacturing & Industrial. The ordinance added zones 1A Forestry and General Use to where mining would now be permitted. Manufacturing and Industrial only makes up a small fraction of the land in Oneida County, whereas 1A Forestry and General Use makes up the bulk. By adding these two zones to permit mining the County Board added thousands of acres where mining would now be permitted simply by filling out an application to mine. You may access a map of your town zoning at http://oneida.ncwrpc.info/ZoningMap/
This change in zoning removed a great protection to the towns. That protection being the town's ability to give input into or deny a rezone for land that is being targeted for a mine. The towns carry substantial input in rezoning land but have little to no input when land is being used for what it is zoned for.
Mind you, changing this zoning back to the original Manufacturing & Industrial only, would not prevent mining. If a town so desired a mine, they could simply petition the county to rezone the land.
Please note that these zoning changes are only viewable in the mining ordinance. Actual Oneida County zoning has yet to reflect these changes. It has been explained to me that until zoning is changed the mining ordinance takes precedent.
I hope this explanation will help you better understand what we mean by "Local Control".
This type of control could also apply to other permitting such as CAFO's. It is an important tool for the towns to be able to protect their water.
Included below is an Oct 2021 Northwoods Star Journal article by Karl Fate which delves into more of the history of how we arrived where we are now.
By Eric Rempala
"At the January 21, 2022 CUW Special Manure Storage Ordinance (MSO) Committee meeting, a motion was made by Roach, seconded by Winkler to postpone the Manure Storage Ordinance until such time as operations exceeding 200 animal units comes into Oneida County with an animal unit equaling 1000 lbs. of live animal weight. Roll call vote: Winkler-aye, Mott-aye, Thome-aye, Engel-aye, Roach-aye, Ives- aye. Motion carried."
The above information is a direct statement from the Oneida County Land and Water Conservation. Included is a link to OCLW with a video of the meeting from which the statement originated from. Special thanks to the OCLW staff for their assistance.
Though disappointed that there was not a motion to forward the proposed Manure Storage Ordinance to the County Board, the decision to postpone was a good one. Postponement was a compromise by the committee as Supervisors Thome and Mott were in favor of the ordinance and Supervisors Winkler, Engel, Roach' and Ives were in favor of table/kill. The decision to postpone keeps the proposed ordinance active and on the books for possible reconsideration at such time as operations exceeding 200 animal units comes into Oneida County. This along with an extension on the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) moratorium until September 2022 gives hope that Oneida County will be able to protect itself from such largescale farming operations.
The MSO committee did an excellent job cobbling together an ordinance which gives the county the ability to protect itself from such large CAFO operations without adding any additional restrictions to our current farms. It's important to note that the ability to oversee CAFO operations is the main objective of the ordinance. Also, the committee including the ability to revisit the ordinance yearly is a novel approach to updating the ordinance as actual application impacts are considered.
If this type of environmental legislation along with mining and PFAS issues are important to you, then you should consider asking for your County Supervisor candidate's positions on these issues for the upcoming April elections. It is squarely upon the residents and property owners of Oneida County to hold their Supervisors accountable when it comes to protecting our waters. Below are links for current Supervisors and Supervisor candidates for April 5 2022 election.
Current Oneida County Supervisor link https://www.co.oneida.wi.us/government/cb/
Current Oneida County Supervisor Candidates for April 5 Election
By Eric Rempala
Jan. 15, 2022--Oneida County held a public hearing on Jan. 5 to address a proposed Manure Storage Ordinance. View the meeting here: Manure Storage - Oneida County Land and Water Conservation (oclw.org) Currently, while Oneida County has a moratorium on CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), it is one of only 10 Wisconsin counties that does not have a Manure Storage Ordinance. The proposed ordinance would go a long way in providing local protection to these particular animal operations.
We have seen multiple counties with weak local protections deal with the impacts of CAFOs. We applaud Oneida County for their foresight on this issue. Problems that can occur with CAFO operations are, but not limited to, the following:
Monitoring these issues and permitting CAFOs currently falls to the DNR. The DNR is greatly understaffed and underfunded when it comes to this issue. A local ordinance would provide Oneida County with a tool for oversight when necessary. More information on what CAFO oversight means and who pays for it can be found here.
Below is a public comment from Jan. 5 meeting made by Dan Butkus, an Oneida County property owner and water advocate. We feel Dan's comments represent an even-handed approach to protecting Oneida County's water resources, providing another set of eyes on animal operations that can help prevent degradation of our valuable waters.
Public Hearing statement by Dan Butkus
I appreciate the opportunity to make a public comment in support of the proposed Manure Storage Ordinance.
It was hard work to create the ordinance, but I believe it was well worth it. The sole goal was to produce a good ordinance and try to accommodate the concerns of all parties, because that’s what ordinances are for: managing disparate interests over shared use of a resource in the most equitable way possible.
Does everyone get everything they want? No. Compromise is not a dirty word. Those involved tried to find middle ground between farms of all types and residents/visitors who live on or use Oneida County waters for recreation. Both groups contribute to the tax base in this county. Both impact the surface waters of the county through their separate use, in their own way. One does not get to exist at the expense of another.
I believe the draft ordinance represents good work by a group of people who understand the balance of the interested parties. There was give and take all the way around. Additional input was seriously considered. I believe this proposed ordinance is better than many in agriculture-rich counties.
I’ve heard it said that we don’t need an ordinance, there are no CAFOs in Oneida County. I’ve heard that this will hurt small farms. I’ve heard that most small farms already comply with good practices and it’s unnecessary. To those comments, my replies are these. Implementing an ordinance after a CAFO is established is too late. This is a preventative measure. I’ve not seen solid data from the small farms showing how this ordinance will hurt them financially, or how it will negatively impact their day to day operations.
And to the last point, consider this. It is not the farms that follow good practices that worry me. It’s the one or two that don’t. If what they say is true and most are already following good practices, then this ordinance does not affect most small farms. In most cases, small operations won’t be required to obtain a permit. All that is being asked of small farms is that they all use the same guidelines of good practices by keeping manure stacks away from areas that endanger surface and ground water and minimize runoff by standardizing setbacks. If these are the good practices that they claim they are already following, then where is the issue with the ordinance, really?
Lastly, I’d like us to consider that of the 72 counties in Wisconsin, 62 have a Manure Storage Ordinance. Of the 10 that do not, six are in North Central Wisconsin, the area which is most rich with inland lakes in our state: Price, Iron, Vilas, Forest, Florence, and of course Oneida. I think that if counties with more agriculture than Oneida County found it wise to pass a Manure Storage Ordinance, and managed to overcome threading the needle of shared use to accommodate all parties, including small farms, then Oneida County can as well. We only need to follow their lead. I support the manure storage ordinance. Thank you.
The current ordinance proposal is just that: a proposal and yet to be presented to the Oneida County Board for a vote. We at OCCWA recommend residents to monitor this issue and give comment when the public listening session on this ordinance is held. Also, we urge you to give input to your district county supervisor, who will be voting on this issue. You can find your supervisor here.
Oct. 20, 2021--In 2009, an obscure “mining interest” called Tamerlane approached Oneida County, seeking to acquire the rights to a known mineral deposit on County Forest lands on the western side of the county, called the Lynne Deposit. The Lynne Deposit was formed well over a billion years ago and then eroded and twisted for many million years more, before being buried beneath a vast column of water and layers of sand and gravel when the glaciers receded over 10,000 years ago, forming the foundation for our lakes, streams, and wetlands.
Our county government reacted to Tamerlane’s request by rubber-stamping a failed, old policy Resolution that was used a decade previously to open the County Forest to metallic mining. A Mining Oversight/Local Impact Committee was formed to consider developing a leasing plan, and although, over the course of three years the Committee spent considerable time, energy and resources, it was never especially interested in the existing information base, nor the considerable public concerns and opposition that it heard meeting after meeting.
Fortunately, the full County Board was listening, and in February 2012 the leasing plan was stopped. The Committee's recommendation was turned back two more times that summer, the last being the defeat known as the “Shidell Resolution,” which ended metallic mining as a policy goal of the County government.
Despite no longer pursuing “mining as a policy goal,” the county was back promoting a mine at Lynne within a month of the defeat of the “Shidell Resolution.” This time it was the Planning and Development Committee proposing to allow metallic mining in areas zoned “1-A Forestry.” The County Forest at Lynne is zoned “1-A Forestry” and the Town of Lynne was opposed to rezoning the area to “Manufacturing and Industrial,” a change necessary to have a mine there. Planning & Development wanted to allow metallic mining in “1-A Forestry” to circumvent the need for a rezone, thus stripping the town of a critical protection.
It was at this 9/11/2012 P&D Committee meeting where the idea of weaponizing the zoning districts in retaliation against a town that opposed a mine was first developed. Although the committee would eventually drop the proposal because of public opposition, it had another chance to go after local control within five years, thanks to Tom Tiffany, then the region's District 12 state senator.
The Mining Moratorium Law was always popular, but Tom Tiffany was able to successfully repeal it in late 2017. Once the law was repealed, it was widely, but inaccurately, construed as opening Northern Wisconsin to massive sulfide mining as a matter of right, and it was clear that there was a coordinated effort to establish sulfide mining anew in the Northwoods. There were promotional mine tours, a promotional “Mining 101” seminar, and then the counties were pressured into developing a compliant mining ordinance, which removed several key protections.
In Oneida County, vast areas were opened to metallic sulfide mining by precluding a mining company from having to petition to rezone those areas. This was done by allowing metallic mining as a “Permitted Use” in areas zoned “1-A Forestry” and “General Use.” It was already allowed in areas zoned “Manufacturing and Industrial.” This means that in addition to the permitted use specified, “services essential to the permitted use, and its accessory uses shall be permitted in that district as a matter of right.”
When you couple this with the fact that the new ordinance removed prohibitions on smelting, refining, solution mining, and dumping mine wastes in the county, generated from outside of the county, the new mining ordinance was a blueprint for turning the region into a mining district. Under this scenario, the Lynne mine would have likely been used as a central processing center, eventually receiving ore, and generating waste on site from other mines, including from outside of the county.
Once Oneida County removed these protections with the new mining ordinance, there was only one more step to open the door for a mine at Lynne. The supervisors pushing the mine at Lynne have always wanted a referendum question on the issue. They finally got it, and it did not go their way when their referendum question failed substantially during the November 2018 election. Without “social license” for a mine at Lynne, the centerpiece for a mining district in our county collapsed.
Since the failure of the Noranda experiment in the 1990s, our county government has, on three occasions, spent considerable time, effort and resources promoting one mining scheme or another in our county, always with considerable public opposition, and always to no avail.
It’s time for our county government to take a sober, objective look at this issue, and ponder its priorities. It makes no sense for our county government to continue squandering its fiscal resources to remove protections from itself, while pushing something that people do not want, and which threatens the integrity of our high quality natural resource base.
By Eric Rempala
More towns adopt the sulfide mining resolution
March 24, 2021--Karl Fate and I attended three town board meetings in the past week. The towns of Stella, Crescent, and Pine Lake all were holding votes on adopting Karl's resolution on sulfide mining. All three towns voted unanimously to adopt said resolution. We thank all three towns for their professionalism and for their foresight in protecting Oneida County's water.
These three towns now join the City of Rhinelander and the towns of Lynne, Nokomis, Cassian, Newbold and Lake Tomahawk in adopting our resolution. The town of Schoepke has committed to having us out when they feel Covid will permit.
Karl and I will continue to solicit remaining towns to have our presentation added to their town agenda's. If your town has yet to adopt our resolution, and you would like them to consider it we recommend you contact your town board to ask to have us present. You can read the resolution on our mining issues page.
As always, if you have any questions, please contact myself or Karl Fate. You may also contact us at Oneida County Clean Waters Action by using the Contact Form on the Contact Us page.Thank you for your interest in preserving our clean waters!
Rhinelander City Council approves resolution
Feb. 9, 2021--Last night the City of Rhinelander voted unanimously with one abstention to adopt a town-specific resolution opposing sulfide mining in our water-rich area.
In the language there is the request to repeal Act 134. This was adapted from Karl Fate's resolution stating the same. Rhinelander joins the towns of Lynne, Newbold, Lake Tomahawk, Cassian, and Nokomis in adopting this resolution.
The resolution is also being considered in the town of Piehl and will be presented to the towns of Stella, Crescent, and Pine Lake in the coming weeks, with the town of Schoepke committing to have it on a future agenda.
We at Oneida County Clean Waters Action thank Rhinelander and the towns who have adopted our resolution for their consideration and foresight in protecting our most valuable resource: the clean waters of Oneida County's lakes and rivers.
Open Letter to the Rhinelander City Council
Jan. 26, 2021--On behalf of Oneida County Clean Waters Action, I would like to thank you for your time and consideration on our resolution submission. We respect the fact that you chose to delay the vote for the reason to obtain input from your constituents. We understand that due to Covid this process becomes that more difficult. If any of your residents would like more information on our presentation, please direct them to this website.
We would also like to provide you with the results of the Nov 6, 2018, referendum on the Lynne deposit, which we feel is a clear indication of your city's position on metallic sulfide mining. Note that a no vote was a vote opposed to mining in Lynne.
Aldermanic District Yes No % No
AD 1 142 211 60%
AD 2 115 236 67%
AD 3 116 217 65%
AD 4 122 190 61%
AD 5 172 322 65%
AD 6 135 216 62%
AD 7 100 230 70%
AD 8 145 204 58%
The Lynne site is located 34 miles west of Rhinelander. Since this referendum two years ago, drilling has occurred this summer in the town of Schoepke, which is just east of Rhinelander and much closer than Lynne.
We urge you to consider the environmental effects of this type of mining in this water-rich area that we live in. Acid Mine Drainage and heavy metal leaching into lakes, rivers, and aquifers could damage hunting, fishing, and tourism for hundreds of years.
Remember that mining is a boom-and-bust industry, around only until the mine is exhausted. One only needs to look to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to see what happens to mining towns when the mines go away. For these reasons we urge you to consider adopting our resolution. Rhinelander will benefit far more from tourism and second home-residents who come for the beauty of the Northwoods and especially our clean waters, not to be found anywhere else. That is where we will see our greatest economic rewards.
Thank you for your careful consideration of this important issue.
Town of Nokomis and Town of Newbold adopt sulfide mining resolution
Oct. 22, 2020--Karl Fate and I attended the Cassian town board meeting this month and gave our presentation. The board was friendly and accommodating. Our information was well received and the board had numerous questions. Karl and I were pleased that the board showed a good knowledge of mining issues and we are hopeful that Cassian will consider our information and vote to adopt the resolution.
The Town of Nokomis has adopted our resolution. The board listened to our presentation at their September board meeting and was very aware of the environmental impact of sulfide mining, given their proximity to the Willow Flowage, an area threatened in 2018 by a proposed sulfide mine. We thank them for their hospitality.
The Town of Newbold also has passed our resolution, with slight modification, making it more town-specific. Our meeting with them went extremely well. What a terrific bunch of warm and welcoming people, with great interest in protecting their water.
An update on the Town of Schoepke meeting: we had been on their agenda for October but they notified us that we had been removed over concerns that because of Covid too many people might crowd into the town hall building. The town clerk was accommodating and they have offered to put us back on when they feel it will be safer.
The Town of Lake Tomahawk will put us on their agenda for the Nov. 11 meeting. Kudos to Eileen Lonsdorf for meeting with Lake Tomahawk's chairman George DeMet and explaining our presentation.
The Town of Minocqua has been sent all our information and we are hoping to be added to the agenda of a future board meeting. Anyone who is a resident of Minocqua can contact the town board and ask that we be added. Help is always appreciated!
Our request to be added to a board meeting at the Town of Woodruff is on hold because of Covid concerns, according to town chairman Mike Timmons.
The Town of Three Lakes has been contacted and board chaiman Jeff Bruss has told us that he did not feel mining was an issue for his town. We have sent him some information that we hoped to convince him that may not be true, but he has yet to reply. I'm afraid if a town chairman refuses to hear our presentation there is not much more we can do, other than ask the town residents to speak up and request that we be added to an agenda.
Karl and I will be attending the Rhinelander City Council meeting Mon., Oct. 26, to request that we be added to their next meeting. All our information has been sent to the mayor and city council members, and if one chooses to have us added we should be in line for the following meeting. Any Hodag love would be appreciated!
On a sour note: Karl and I attended the Hazelhurst Town Hall to ask to be added to their November agenda. Chairman Ted Cushing was not receptive. In fact, this was the worst reception we have been given by any town. Mr. Cushing apparently had a preconceived idea of what we were presenting and immediately said he was not interested. Funny thing: Karl was a few minutes late and by the time he got there, it was all over. We found it curious that a chairman who represented a town whose citizens voted 74 per cent against mining at Lynne, had no interest in our presentation. Karl did send a cordial follow-up email but has yet to hear back.
I would like to thank County Supervisor Jim Winkler for his support. He asked to have our resolution brought up at a Conservation and UW Extension committee meeting, which I gratefully attended. Mr. Winkler was very supportive of our work, which is no surprise as he is a staunch supporter of protecting the waters of our Northwoods.
Finally, I would like to address those following us at OCCWA and are Oneida county residents or landowners: We are a small group of grassroots, boots on the ground volunteers who have experience in protecting our water-rich area from the toxic damage of sulfide mining. Many of us cut our teeth with The Protect the Willow action. Karl Fate, who has been involved in these issues since the 1980s, is our backbone. His knowledge of mining and its legislation both past and present is the engine that drives us.
We are working hard to protect our water, but we can't do it without the people of Oneida County. So, we ask you to follow our website, share our information, share your concerns with your elected officials, and join us in protecting Oneida County's water!
Note: You can read the 2020 Resolution on the Mining Issues page.
Wisconsin's Waters Belong to Everyone
Wisconsin lakes and rivers are public resources, owned in common by all Wisconsin citizens under the state's Public Trust Doctrine. Based on the state constitution, this doctrine has been further defined by case law and statute. It declares that all navigable waters are "common highways and forever free", and held in trust by the Department of Natural Resources.
Assures Public Rights in Waters
Wisconsin citizens have pursued legal and legislative action to clarify or change how this body of law is interpreted and implemented. Go to the Wisconsin Department of Resources website to watch videos on how individual Wisconsinites have benefited from these efforts.