The mining bills put forward by Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Scott Suder would require our state Department of Natural Resources to presume that filling lakes, ponds and stream channels with mining waste is a necessary activity, so long as they follow ‘measures’ like building a boat launch on another lake.
One of several amendments introduced by the bill authors, passed in Senate and Assembly Committees on Feb. 6, limits the size of streams and lakes that could be permitted for filling or alteration under the bill.
These amendments were supposed to create additional environmental protections, but words on paper can look very different from reality on the ground.
To visualize the possible impacts, we asked for an independent analysis.
Environmental specialists at the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission used Geographic Information Systems with existing water datasets to map out waters that could be altered or destroyed under the amended version of the bill.
Based on this analysis, AB1/SB1 could allow the DNR to permit filling and piling mining waste over as much as four miles of headwater streams in just 1 parcel of land leased by Gogebic Taconite.
But of course this bill is not just about the Penokee Hills – it would create law and a new legal precedent for all of Wisconsin.
The degree of alteration or outright obliteration of lakes and streams that could be allowed under this proposal has never even been considered in Wisconsin before.
If a precedent for allowing the widespread destruction of public waters were to be established in Wisconsin for one activity every citizen with a stake in our healthy lakes and streams would be affected.