Wisconsin Lakes

We Speak for Lakes

WI Lakes

Wisconsin Needs a Fully Functional EPA

Wisconsin Lakes joins citizens and environmental organizations at EPA listening session

By Wisconsin Lakes staff

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Region V Director, Robert Kaplan, heard citizen testimony on EPA’s role in protecting water in Wisconsin this past Tuesday, November 15 in Eau Claire. With nearly 200 citizens in attendance, roughly 60 speakers raised the spectre of a weakened or non-existent EPA under the Trump administration, as well as raising concerns with the agency’s enforcement of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ delegated authority to administer the Clean Water Act in Wisconsin. Specific issues were raised on regulation of factory farms, polluted runoff into our lakes and rivers, and questions of ground and drinking water quality (especially in hard hit Kewaunee County). The event was organized by the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club, with the help of Midwest Environmental Advocates, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Clean Wisconsin, the River Alliance of Wisconsin, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Lakes.

Wisconsin Lakes Executive Director Michael Engleson spoke on behalf of the organization. His comments follow:

Good evening, and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you tonight. My name is Michael Engleson, Executive Director of Wisconsin Lakes, a statewide non-profit conservation organization representing lake organizations across Wisconsin. I’m here tonight to express the belief of my members in the fundamental need for laws and regulations that ensure clean, safe, and plentiful surface and groundwater, and for the need that the agencies and officials tasked with implementing those laws and regulations remain adequately funded, fully staffed, and focused on the duties that are incumbent upon them.

Picture of Mike Engleson, Wisconsin Lakes Executive Director

WI Lakes Executive Director Michael Engleson

Wisconsin Lakes represents waterfront property owners, lake users, lake associations, and lake districts who in turn represent over 80,000 citizens and property owners. Our mission is to conserve, enhance and restore Wisconsin’s lakes to ensure their sustainability for the benefit and collective use and enjoyment for this and future generations.

The lakes of Wisconsin face many issues – aggressive development of their shorelines, aquatic invasive species, artificial drawdowns from overuse of connected groundwater, and many more. But water quality from polluted runoff is certainly a prime issue for many lakes around the state, and is no doubt one of importance to many in attendance here tonight. While the drivers of polluted runoff are many, commitment to limiting its impacts should be unified. This is not a an issue that should divide by party, political ideology, economic class, or any other division. It should be self-apparent that clean water benefits us all in ways ecological, cultural, and economic, and that we must continue to improve a framework that promotes clean water.

Wisconsinites are rightfully proud of their heritage of strong protections of our state’s waters, especially as reflected in the delegation of Clean Water Act enforcement to our state government by the EPA. We believe that in large part we’ve done a pretty good job over the last several decades fulfilling our duty, and the benefits of meshing Clean Water Act duties with the duty of the state to protect our water under the Public Trust Doctrine of the state constitution has worked to the benefit of the waters of Wisconsin.

But in more recent years, a rising movement in Wisconsin is working to scale-back those historic protections, and we fear this movement will continue in the near future and will potentially even spread into our federal government.

So to protect our waters and ensure that we maintain the cultural, recreational, ecological and economical benefits I referred to earlier, Wisconsin Lakes calls for the following:

  • EPA must remain fully funded and staffed and committed to fully enforcing the Clean Water Act,
  • EPA must hold Wisconsin state government to its obligations under its delegation of authority from EPA, and act decisively if it determines those obligations are not being met
  • As part of meeting those obligations, Wisconsin must ensure a fully funded, fully staffed Department of Natural Resources that is committed to water quality protection and improvement in Wisconsin, and that is committed to meeting and exceeding its obligations under both its EPA delegated authority and the Public Trust Doctrine
  • All of us – EPA, DNR, other areas of state and local government in Wisconsin, and the citizens and property owners of the state as well – must work together to IMPROVE our water quality laws and regulations, to innovate new ways to manage our watersheds, and to come together under one banner of clean, plentiful water for now and the future.

Whether our waters turn green with algae, as they too often do now, or brown with the industrial sludge of a hopefully bygone era, no one benefits in the long run unless we continue working to fix the problem. We hope EPA remains strong and continues to aggressively enforce the Clean Water Act, and we hope that our state follows suit in its own management of our waters. I am here to declare that the lake organizations, the waterfront property owners, and friends of lakes that make up my organization, Wisconsin Lakes, will be here to support you – and, if necessary, to push you forward – in that effort.