By Eric Rempala January 16, 2023- Yes, yes, what next? As Oneida County reels from a recent PFAS discovery a WXPR piece reveals rising levels of salt in local lakes. What is encouraging is that levels are not so high yet to cause declines in macroinvertebrates and zooplankton which are the bottom of the food chain supporting fish populations.
A recent WXPR article by Katie Thoreson covers this issue in more detail. Rising chloride levels in Lake Julia spur action by Lake Association members to reduce salt use in the area | WXPR
I would like to commend both Sue and Bob Thome as well as the Lake Julia Lake Association for their efforts to bring this issue to the forefront. It is these types of actions from local residents that help protect our water. Let's hope going forward a proactive and effective approach will be implemented.
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. We feel it is imperative to return more environmental decision making to the local citizens and towns directly impacted by projects which put their water at risk. This report by Wisconsin's Green Fire documents in great detail how the loss of local control was accomplished. We hope that this report assists in providing information and a path to restore that which has been taken. 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 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
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 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.