pushes for watershed grant
would help find source of beach bacteria
Green Bay Press-Gazette Madison bureau
MADISON - A Northeastern Wisconsin lawmaker wants Gov.
Scott McCallum to seek federal funds that might help answer
why high concentrations of contaminants surfaced in parts
of Lake Michigan in July, sickening Door County vacationers
and forcing beaches to close.
State Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Allouez, has asked McCallum
in writing to nominate Lake Michigan and surrounding lands
to be part of a new, $21 million grant program by the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The program promotes
promising approaches to clean water through an emphasis
on watersheds, or waterways and the lands that drain into
just learned about this program late last week and thought,
Heres an opportunity to find some resources
to try and define the problem, Cowles said.
We havent been able to find any dollars to
find out the cause of the beach closings in Door County.
It just makes sense to make Lake Michigan be the watershed
In addition to Door County, contamination problems have
closed beaches in southeast Wisconsin over the years,
Lauren Lent, co-owner of Edge of Park Inc., a bicycle
and moped rental company at the entrance of Peninsula
State Park in Fish Creek, said she and her family have
been swimming in the lake for years without getting sick,
but its still a good idea to seek the cause of the
bacterias presence before it worsens.
into it cant do any harm, and its something
I suppose shouldnt be let go, Lent said.
President Bushs 2003 budget includes funding for
the grant program, and nominations are due late next month.
Up to 20 watersheds would be chosen on a competitive basis
for the program.
Project awards would range from $300,000 to $1.3 million,
according to the EPA.
Cowles told McCallum that a beach contamination
crisis hit Door County in July and August when tests
of the water showed levels of E. coli bacteria far exceeded
federal standards. Dozens of campers and other visitors
became sick and numerous beaches closed for days at a
There is a hitch to the program. It requires a nonfederal
match that equals 25 percent of the total cost of whatever
project goes forth.
The state already faces a budget deficit of up to $2.8
billion in the next biennium.
Cowles said the matching requirement would not necessarily
need to be funded with state resources because in-kind
goods and services, such as volunteers and their time
and equipment, would count toward the match.
The lawmakers office had not received a response
from the governor by Tuesday afternoon.
According to EPA rules, McCallum may nominate up to two
state watersheds for the program.
Projects that cross state lines and have the support of
the states involved arent counted toward to two-nomination
limit and would be given extra consideration
in the scoring process, the EPA said.
Rhonda Kolberg, director of the Door County Public Health
Department, said the countys board of health agreed
Monday to have a resolution sent to the County Board in
support of the nomination.
board of health was supportive of this because we want
to look at both sides of the problem the testing
and monitoring and the source identification, she
Rebecca Katers, executive director of the Clean Water
Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin, voiced cautious
optimism over the program. She said the group would support
the nomination as long as a water quality credit
trading concept was not part of the work that would
In the concept, polluters who exceed federal clean water
standards would be able to buy credits from others polluting
below their legal limits.
water quality credits and pollution trading would be of
great concern to us, Katers said.