RACINE - After
leaving behind efforts to appeal and possibly litigate
Waukesha's plan to draw millions of gallons of Lake
Michigan water each day, the group representing mayors
in the Great Lakes region is instead setting its sights
on the Foxconn deal, with Gov. Scott Walker's proposal
to waive some environmental protections - which the
group's leader says could have a significant impact on
special session Assembly Bill 1, put forth by Gov. Scott
Walker would allow electronics manufacturer Foxconn to
discharge dredged materials during construction, fill
wetlands, change the course of streams, build artificial
bodies of water that connect with natural waterways and
build on a riverbed or lakebed - all without permits in
order to sweeten the deal between Wisconsin and Foxconn.
former mayor of Racine - one of the areas that could be
selected for the 20 million square-foot Foxconn campus -
said he is watching the issue closely, which threatens
disaster, he added, if elected officials choose to
sacrifice the water quality of Lake Michigan to get the
maker of liquid crystal display - LCD - screens to the
state. Dickert resigned from city government last month
and moved to the helm of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence
Cities Initiative, a consortium of hundreds of mayors
from across the Great Lakes region in the U.S. and
Canada that is tenacious about protecting the Great
Dickert said he
thinks Foxconn's eagerness to come to the region is the
start of a major manufacturer influx, all wanting to set
up operations at the foot of the Great Lakes and use the
fresh water. He said the Foxconn bill could spell doom
for Great Lakes water in the future.
"To start a trend
saying we will destroy the environment to get a company
to build here is a horrible precedent to set," Dickert
said. "It's not what people in Wisconsin want either."
mayors around the Great Lakes watershed have been
waiting for mega manufacturers to "switch back to the
U.S.," if given the opportunity to tap into the massive
fresh water source.
The key, he said,
is to remember that there can be water quality and
economic development at the same time if elected
officials decide to open up the process to more
stakeholders - like businesses, scientists, educators
and surrounding communities.
"It's only when
you hide something in the cover of darkness that there
are problems," he said. "We are still waiting for the
details of this to emerge, but we see this being a trend
in the future and don't want that to mean the
degradation of our Great Lakes."
president of Waukesha County Environmental Action
League, WEAL, said she worries the rollback of
environmental protections with the Foxconn bill could
mean those regulations that she and other
environmentalists fought for are gone for good,
everywhere in the state.
She, like Dickert,
believes jobs coming to the southeastern part of the
state are great for economic development, and hopes
lawmakers are wise enough to ensure protections remain
for public health, clean drinking water and lakes and
Groe said she
hasn't brought the issue up before the whole league, but
expects to at a meeting coming up this month.
"I know what they
are proposing - building liquid crystal displays - can
produce a lot of toxins; it's a pretty dirty process,"
she said. "Of course we're concerned about something
like this and its affect on the state."
League of Conservation Voters is circulating a letter
that people can send to their local legislators asking
them to pledge to "reject anti-conservation measures in
the Foxconn bill," which needlessly endangers
Wisconsin's natural resources, according to their
Department of Natural Resources spokesman James Dick
told the Associated Press last week that since Foxconn
hasn't selected a site yet, no one knows if any wetlands
will be affected.
would still have to obtain state and federal air, water
quality and waste permits, Dick added. Those
applications require a public comment period so people
would still be able to keep abreast of developments, he
Press contributed to this report.