Great blue herons and sandhill cranes in West Bend, Wisconsin won’t have to look for new nesting areas thanks to a recent decision by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that denied an application for an airport expansion. The nesting areas are a part of a 258 acre wetland, 150 acres would have been destroyed for the airport and the value of the remaining 100-plus acres would have been diminished by being fragmented. The project also would have required people in the area to lose their homes for the project.
Watershed Watchers, a grassroots group that monitors and protects the northern reaches of the Milwaukee River watershed, spearheaded the effort to protect this valuable wetland over the last 15 years. Persistent, and determined, Watershed Watchers sponsored educational programs, carried homemade display exhibits to conferences across the state, wrote many, many letters to local, state, and federal officials, followed elected officials to town hall meetings, and participated in the Fourth of July parade, complete with a float and flyers for the public. An Army Corps official said she had to buy another file because of all the mail she got from the group.
“We are very satisfied with the decision to stop spending taxpayers’ money and preserve the natural resources that would have been destroyed,” said Marilyn John a member of Watershed Watchers (as quoted in the Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin).
In June 2005, a decision was made to conduct a complete, comprehensive Environmental Impact Study of the proposed airport expansion’s natural resources and the purpose and need, among other issues. The Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources was influential in persuading the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation that an EIS was needed to assess the airport expansion project’s impact on the surrounding wetlands, woodlands, other natural resources, and quality of life for area citizens. Marilyn John contacted Freshwater Future to inquire if we knew of anyone who could help Watershed Watchers with their review of the Environmental Impact Study. Using our network of nearly 2,000 individuals and organizations, we sent out a request asking if anyone could provide this assistance. At least six people offered their assistance to Watershed Watchers and the comments that Watershed Watchers submitted to the FAA from this process contributed to the denial of the expansion.
“In addition to grants, our grassroots group was guided, consoled, and taught how to think like advocates by Freshwater Future, that became very important to our success,” shared Marilyn John.
For more information on Watershed Watchers visit their website at www.watershed watchers.org.