A pound of phosphorus, from eutrophication (sewage effluent and agricultural run-off carrying fertilizers), can produce five hundred pounds of fish-killing, poisonous, very smelly and potentially dangerous algae in Wisconsin waters. Besides the smell and fish-kill and other consequences, such environmental damage affects recreation, fishing, hunting and enjoyment of looking at Wisconsin’s wonderful lakes and streams.
Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources is smart enough to limit how much phosphorous can come from farms, factories and sewer plants. After all, phosphorous in water ecosystems causes severe increases in toxic plankton, dirtier water color, dissolved oxygen depletion, increased incidences of fish kills and loss of fish species, horrible smell and the introduction of poisoning of fish and shellfish that we eat.
So what does this mean for Wisconsinites who enjoy the great outdoors along the lakes during the Walker years? Get ready to catch less fish that can kill you while you wear noseplugs. Make sure to have extra time yanking the smelly algae from the propellers from the boat engine when you get back on land.
Incoming Republican chairs of the state Legislature’s natural resource committees say they intend to pursue everything from streamlining water and air permits to possibly reviewing tough phosphorus reduction rules passed by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) last year.
“Things will be a lot different this session,” said Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, who will be chairing the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. “The number one thing for us — we have to make sure we figure out how to grow jobs.”
Beyond possible changes in permitting programs, environmental leaders in Wisconsin are perhaps most nervous about Republicans reviewing and possibly reducing the scope of new rules that regulate the amount of phosphorous released into the state’s waters by farmers, sewage treatment plants and businesses.
The rules, which DNR officials described as the most important water rules since the federal Clean Water Act, would set limits on the discharge of phosphorus, which causes the growth of weeds in lakes and streams. Reducing phosphorus levels will be expensive. According to the DNR’s own estimates, the cost to about 160 sewage treatment plants around the state would be a total of $1.3 billion.
Of most concern to Gunderson is the impact on farmers. He said that because of the importance of the farm economy to Wisconsin, he would favor a review of the rule.
Walker is looking to go on the attack with the DNR because he thinks they are affecting jobs in Wisconsin. Who cares about Wisconsin lakes, which need to be taken care of for our public health, natural beauty and what drive Wisconsin tourism. The DNR presently has established a program allowing sewerage districts to financially reimburse agricultural interests to follow environmental practices reducing runoff.
All that could go away because people like Walker view the word “environmental” with reptilian disdain.