Freshwater Weekly 9/28/17
This week: Governor Walker signs Foxconn bill into law + Michigan Legislature + Algae + Brandon Road
WISCONSIN MAKES IT OFFICIAL: FOXCONN TO GET $3 BILLION
Despite opposition from environmentalists—including hundreds of Freshwater Future supporters like you—Governor Scott Walker recently signed a law that gives away $3 billion in cash to foreign company Foxconn on the condition that it invests $10 billion and employs at least 13,000 people in the state. Foxconn is the world’s largest contract manufacturer of electronics, best known for making iPhones.
The law exempts Foxconn from a host of state environmental regulations, and circumvents certain judicial processes to speed up expected legal challenges. Nonpartisan attorneys for the Wisconsin legislature warn that the latter portions of the newly signed law may be unconstitutional, and environmental groups say exemptions put water quality and sensitive habitats at risk.
According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Wisconsin taxpayers will not recoup the cost of this deal for 25 years.
MICHIGAN LAWMAKERS, PASSING THE BUCK?
Many Michigan families know what it’s like to wake up after a thunderstorm to find their homes flooded with rainwater and raw sewage. The cleanup is costly and time consuming, and because it’s almost always the result of outdated city infrastructure, homeowners can’t easily prevent it.
A bill in the Michigan House leaves home and business owners 100% responsible for covering flood cleanup costs, even when an outdated sewage and stormwater system is clearly at fault. The bill would let the government off the hook for sewage overflows and ruined basements if it rains more than 1.7 inches in one hour, or 3.3 inches in a continuous 24-hour period. These are common rain events that are only becoming more frequent in our warming climate. Read more about the bill here.
Michigan’s water infrastructure is old. Like many Great Lakes communities, cities across the state continue to live with 50-150 year old systems unable to keep up with population growth and modern water use. Instead of finding solutions for Michigan’s aging water infrastructure, the state House is voting on whether to push costs off on homeowners.
Michiganders, tell your elected representative to vote NO on Bill 4290. Take action here.
For weeks a significant algal bloom has steadily grown over much of the western basin of Lake Erie. Most waters continue to be safe for recreation, but where the bloom is the thickest along the Ontario shoreline the toxicity of the algae has yet to be confirmed. Communities in Ontario are already closing beaches and harbors as a precaution. Freshwater Future is working to keep decision makers up to date and to hold them accountable for taking action. Check out the coverage in the Windsor Star.
GOVERNMENT PLAN TO STOP ASIAN CARP FALLS SHORT
The opening of the Illinois and Michigan canal in 1848 forever changed the Great Lakes. This connection between the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan creates the potential for Asian carp to enter our waters, and today we count on the Brandon Road Lock and Dam to minimize that potential.
Last week, Freshwater Future submitted a public comment on the U.S. government’s plan to strengthen Brandon Road and stop the spread of these invasive species. While the Army Corps of Engineers’ recommendations for new and reinforced barriers in Chicago waterways is comprehensive and robust, it still leaves a 13% chance that Asian carp will breach the barrier and swim into Lake Michigan.
We will continue to advocate for restoring the natural divide between the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes—the option that will cost taxpayers the least, and the option that best protects the Great Lakes from this existential threat. Read our public comment here.
If you haven’t done it already, you can submit your own public comment. Get guidance here.