Let's Talk Dredging
02 / 27
2017

Let's Talk Dredging

A draft proposal from the Wisconsin DNR, currently open for public comment, seeks to move “small scale” dredging for up to 25 cubic yards sediment (think two dump trucks worth!!!) into a General Permit (GP), which will receive substantially less scrutiny from DNR staff. The effect of this will almost certainly be more polluted waters and waterfront neighbor-to-neighbor conflicts, increased opportunities for the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species and degraded habitat for fish and other aquatic life.

Make your opinions heard! By close of business this Fri, March 3, please write to tell DNR (dnrwywrzguidance@wisconsin.gov) that:

Dredging of waterways needs careful environmental review—not General Permits that are green-lighted in a 30 day period!

More information at: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Waterways/construction/dredging.html.

As you compose your comments to DNR regarding this proposal, a couple of points to bear in mind:

1) A General Permit (GP) is a bad idea, for a number of reasons. The existing Individual Permit (IP) process allows DNR staff to carefully review and weigh dredging proposals, accounting for impacts to water quality, fish and other aquatic habitat, invasive species dispersal, and other conditions unique to individual waterbodies. All of this is done in a timely fashion, according to many IP recipients. The impacts of dredging a small, spring-fed lake in the North are vastly different than those in a large, urban lake in the Southeast—why are we creating a system that treats them the same?

2) Nearshore habitat is critical—and will be damaged by a GP for dredging. As the DNR states on its own “Critical Habitat Area” website, “eighty percent of the plants and animals on the state's endangered and threatened species list spend all or part of their life cycle within the near shore zone. As many as ninety percent of the living things in lakes and rivers are found along the shallow margins and shores.” While navigation is a public right, and recreation in the public interest, neither should not take precedent over protection of sensitive aquatic habitats, many of which haven’t been sufficiently chronicled yet.

3) This will almost certainly increase the amount of dredging that will take place on waterbodies. Despite minimal requirements in the draft GP proposal to alert neighbors, reduce the impact of suspended solids/poor water quality and invasive species dispersal, what certainty do we have that all of these conditions will be adequately met, with so little DNR staff review? Very little.

4) This proposal is quite similar to one that appeared last legislative session in AB 600, an omnibus bill of stinker proposals that would degrade our land and waters. How it landed on DNR’s plate is not entirely clear, but what is clear is that this is not DNR staff “going rogue,” rather, they are likely taking orders from politicians. The nuance between the prevailing political whims that direct the appointed leaders of DNR and the science-based approach employed by dedicated staff who care about protecting natural resources is important, and needs to considered when proposals such as this arise.

Questions? Contact River Alliance staff at info@wisconsinrivers.org or by phone at (608) 257-2424.