Apr 4, 2017

Wisconsin Pro-Water Citizen Groups Hope Unity Leads to Success

Madison, Wisconsin — Can citizens coming together to protect fresh water garner political and legal victories against polluting corporations who befoul and deplete this life-sustaining resource?

Chuck Quirmbach explores the question on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Reports Quirmbach:
Some small citizen groups in Wisconsin are teaming up in hopes of stopping local proposals for more large-scale farms known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

Criste Greening and some neighbors have spent about five years battling a proposed CAFO near their homes outside Wisconsin Rapids. The battle hasn't been easy, Greening said.

'And because as citizens we have issues and concerns about agriculture, I was termed "the radical environmentalist," Greening said.

Greening told an Environmental Law and Policy Center conference in Madison last week that there's nothing radical about her, saying she's as a special education teacher who wants clean water for her three children.

She said small groups like hers are hoping to boost their clout against CAFOS by banding together and calling themselves the Citizens Water Coalition of Wisconsin. (Facebook), [Links added]
Writing from Rome, Wisconsin in Adams County, John Endrizzi, Rick Antin, Steve Raap, Rick Georgeson and Don Ystad sent a message this week that echoes Quirmbach's piece:

Rome friends and neighbors,

It's called citizen activism.  It's what we have accomplished joining forces with our friends in Saratoga, but even more importantly here in Rome, it's what we have been able to accomplish in elevating the need to protect the lakes that made this town what it is. 

A year and a half ago, we struggled to get permission to hold a citizen meeting about the threat to our lakes in our own town hall. 

Citizen pressure made that happen.   Subsequent citizen involvement at planning meetings, TriLakes meetings, and town board meetings resulted in action by those same groups to recognize what citizens feel is important to the future of our community.  Here are some of those actions:

  • Groundwater testing wells where our town line meets Saratoga so we can establish a baseline should it ever be necessary to protect ourselves from the effects of the proposed CAFO.
  • Money budgeted and a citizens TriLakes committee formed to assess and resolve the water quality issues in our lakes
  • CAFO informational meetings and follow-ups for Rome property owners.
  • Water Quality informational meeting with legal, scientific and economic experts
  • Funding from TriLakes and Town of Rome for lakes evaluation and cleanup
  • Funding from our town board for an Amicus brief challenging high capacity well permits in the central sands area
  • Town Board resolutions challenging the potential effects of the CAFO and relaxed high capacity well regulations.
  • Planning commission refusal to rezone forest land to agriculture in the critical area along our town line.
The common denominator here is citizen involvement with town government, committees and community organizations to communicate concerns and force the issue when necessary.  While some bureaucrats might suggest our activism is being seen as "politically incorrect", complacency is the bigger danger.  So, to those who took the time, or spoke out, or put their money where their mouth is, thank you for your efforts.  It is helping to elevate the importance of protecting the lakes in our town, and it's making our officials more responsive to the real needs of the community.

It started with our involvement with our friends at Protect Wood County in Saratoga and escalated this year with our Water Lobby Day in Madison on on Feb 8th and the founding of the statewide coalition Criste mentions, Citizens Water Action Coalition.

Thank you to everyone involved, and let's keep it going!

Concerned Rome Citizens Core Group

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