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Great Lakes Article:

Group says bill hurts state rivers
By Jim Kneiszel
Green Bay Press Gazette

The Job Creation Act of 2003 would cause irreparable damage to Wisconsin waterways and eventually cripple the state’s tourism industry, according to several regional environmental and conservation groups.

Environmentalists at a press conference Monday in Green Bay outlined opposition to the 114-page act crafted by Republican lawmakers to stimulate economic development and help the state pull out of a financial tailspin.

Buried in the jobs document are provisions to allow landowners to alter the course of streams and the banks of lakes and rivers in a way that will threaten fisheries, the environmentalists said.

"Every selfish property owner can do what they want. There’s nothing here for the general public,’’ said Ken Murray, of the Green Bay Area Great Lakes Sport Fishermen. "If everyone had a nice, clear shoreline with a nice little beach, wouldn’t that be wonderful?"

"But what a dead lake you’d have. I think this is a ‘to hell with the environment’ bill.’’

The act was introduced Nov. 11 and went through several hours of testimony Nov. 12 in the Legislature’s budget committee.

Legislators hoped to advance the law quickly through the Senate and Assembly.

The package was co-authored by Assembly Speaker John Gard, R-Peshtigo, and Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer, R-West Bend.

Language in the bill would overhaul the process of passing state administrative rules and issuing air permits. It also would modify current rules on navigable waters to streamline the permitting process.

Other provisions range from a new, 180-day deadline for Public Service Commission rulings on deregulation petitions to a new requirement for commercial credit agreements to be in writing.

Opponents said the law will deregulate a variety of critical environmental rules regarding water and air quality and eliminate public hearing and comment periods associated with many permit changes required for development.

Rebecca Katers of the Clean Water Action Council, said the act needs more time for study.

The process has not been as democratic or open as it should be,’’ Katers said.

This (act) allows builders to interpret the laws for themselves (as to) whether they are degrading scenic beauty.’’

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