MADISON – Representative Fred Clark (D-Sauk City) and Representative Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) issued the following statement today regarding iron mining legislation – Assembly Bill 1 (AB1) and Senate Bill (SB1):

“Among the many other changes to our environmental laws, the mining bills put forward by Senator Tiffany and Representative Suder would permit mining operations to fill lakes, ponds, and stream channels with mining waste. 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. We believe that AB1/SB1 threatens the long tradition of protection for navigable waters that has existed since before Wisconsin became a state.

“Article IX of the Wisconsin Constitution states that, “…the navigable waters leading into the Mississippi and St. Lawrence, and the carrying places between the same, shall be common highways and forever free…”. This exact language, and the commitment it creates to protecting our waters as a public trust, comes directly from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 – one of the most important acts of our early Continental Congress, and which was later passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by George Washington.

“Since 1865, executive agencies, the legislature, and our Supreme Court have consistently interpreted the Public Trust Doctrine to create a clear responsibility to protect the waters of the state from activities that would cause their destruction – from the Great Lakes to the smallest streams. However, with the stroke of a pen, passage of AB1/SB1 would open the door wide to violating that tradition.

“Our own Legislative Council attorneys have confirmed that there has never been a precedent in Wisconsin law for allowing the state to permit destruction of navigable waters in return for “enhancing” water bodies somewhere else. We believe that such a policy is squarely in conflict with our Public Trust Doctrine.

“Anyone who understands water knows that you cannot “mitigate” filling in a lake, or erasing a stream right off the map. If such a precedent were to be established in Wisconsin case law for one activity, our Public Trust Doctrine would be weakened, and every citizen with a stake in our healthy lakes and streams could be affected.

“We do not oppose responsible mining. But selling off our public waters to the highest bidder is bad policy and bad precedent. We call on legislators of all parties to oppose any law that weakens protections for the waters of Wisconsin.”

Source: Press Release:


February 21, 2013

Rep. Fred Clark

Rep. Dana Wachs

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