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Apr 25, 201602:07 PMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Blue skies and a smaller Lake Mendota, circa 1830

(page 1 of 2)

In honor of Earth Day last Friday we bring you the cutting — nay, bleeding edge of Madison environmentalism.

An environmental group called CRANES would take Dane County back to the future — the future being the 1830s when a few French-Canadian trappers were the only Europeans in town. As part of its vision, the Capital Region Advocacy Network for Environmental Sustainability (CRANES) would lower Lake Mendota by five feet over the next 20 years to return the lake to its supposed pre-settlement state in the 1830s. That would reduce the large lake’s footprint by as much as two square miles.

The organization also advocates environmental standards for development be “benchmarked” not to farmland but to the natural state “as found in the mid-1830s at the time of the Original Survey” taken after the Blackhawk War freed up Dane County for development. All development in “closed basins” — watersheds with no river outlet — would be ended.

“These actions should be undertaken immediately,” wrote Gary Werner, president of CRANES in his April 11 letter as addressed to the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) and the Dane County Lakes & Watershed Commission.

At the encouragement of CRANES, the Dane County Board ponied up $35,000 for an Air Pollution Inventory and Strategic Plan in the 2014 budget. It has been referred to as the “Blue Skies Initiative” and “Healthy Skies.”

“I guarantee there will be money in the 2017 county budget covering some of the items CRANES wants,” County Board Supv. Ronn Ferrell told this blog. Ferrell is one of a single handful of conservatives remaining on the county board. “The challenge is finding it since they don’t call it what it is and hide it in various lines in the budget.” 

Doing so would expose between 600 and 1,200 acres of present lake bottom. (For reference, Tenney Park is 37 acres; Warner Park is 213.) Lake Mendota currently covers 9,842 acres and reaches a maximum depth of 82 feet. The lake would recede 50 feet along 30% of the shoreline, CRANES estimates.

Eventually, the Tenney Park locks would be removed. Mendota has been dammed there since the 1840s when a grist mill was erected. Benefits, the environmental group claimed, would include more wetlands and wetland wildlife, less pollution, and better flood control. CRANES predicted the lake draw-down would expose “Caribbean quality white sand beaches at Tenney Park.”

CRANES acknowledged that many lakefront homes would no longer front water and that “public ownership of the newly exposed shore land would have to be secured.” Large boats would have limited sailing. Harbors or marinas oriented to large boat owners may need to transition to a new customer base, CRANES acknowledges.

County Board Supv. Ferrell was critical. “The fact that the Tenney Park locks prevent flooding downstream on the Yahara River by using Lake Mendota as a massive holding area for storm water runoff is obviously unimportant to CRANES and their supporters,” he told this blog.

CRANES is well connected

Ferrell also countered that CRANES’ land use goal would “end development in most areas in Dane County not already developed.” Ferrell said the regional planning commission is being asked “to apply natural conditions as found in the mid-1830s at the time of the Original Survey. That means no buildings, roads, or anything.”

CRANES wants future development in the Lake Mendota watershed to “recreate natural hydrological conditions, while also retrofitting existing development insofar as possible toward this standard, to ensure that Lake Mendota is not utilized as a detention facility for unnatural stormwater runoff.”

The Capital Region Advocacy Network for Environmental Sustainability is well connected and staffed. Officers are Gary Werner, president; Progressive Dane activist Phyllis Hasbrouck, who is vice president; former Sierra Club exec Caryl Terrell, secretary; Jon Becker (not the former County Board chairman), treasurer; County Board Supv. John Hendrick; Wildlife Federation director Don Hammes; UW soil sciences professor Harry Read; League of Women Voters activist Connie Threinen; bike advocate and former Madison alderman Robbie Webber. Founders include former Monona Ald. Peter McKeever, a lawyer with Ed Garvey’s firm and former VP of the Nature Conservancy; and Libby Lewis, for 26 years a Dane County Parks Commissioner.

“Many members of CRANES have been appointed and re-appointed to many committees and commissions by [County Executive Joe] Parisi, so he must agree with them,” Ferrell speculated. Parisi appointed Caryl Terrell, for instance, to the regional planning commission.


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Comments, page 1 of 2 1 2 Next »
Apr 25, 2016 02:54 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Opposed to gas-powered lawn mowers! What a bunch of Bolsheviks! What next? Firing squads for litter bugs?

Gas mowers are awful for air quality. Put your face right by the exhaust pipe next time you start yours up and inhale. That's belching straight carbon mono, baby, just so you can play golf course superintendent on your front yard. And then there's the noise. Who wants to spend a peaceful spring afternoon reading on the hammock? Overrated! Vrooom! Vrooooom!

Pristine, pre-settlement lakes are in abundance? Name one.

Apr 25, 2016 04:14 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

WOW , people are fricking nutz

Apr 25, 2016 08:38 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous


Once again you should leave all things dealing with natural resources and the environment to those that have a clue. You don't.

Look up the word "pristine", and get back to us, ok?

Apr 26, 2016 08:43 am
 Posted by  Anonymous


Using the Tenney Park dam and Lake Mendota for flood control has caused significant shoreline damage over the years due to water level fluctuations at the wrong time of the year. Check your memory banks for all the fuss from the well-heeled shoreline residents regarding the large mats of floating marsh vegetation torn loose from the Cherokee Marsh due to high water levels. "Run-of river", e.i., what goes in = what goes out is always the better way, regardless of the Corps of Engineers.

While the proposal to remove the dam is politically impossible, your response is just another knee-jerk reaction to something you have not taken the time to understand.

Please, share the location of one of the pristine lakes you write of......

Apr 26, 2016 10:57 am
 Posted by  David Blaska

You might want to consult the EPA's National Lakes Assessment. In an area covering the northern 2/3rds of Wisconsin (a small part of Minnesota and all of Michigan) the EPA scores 91% of the sampled lakes in excellent shape.

Apr 26, 2016 11:30 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

- Aldo Leopold

I submit this applies to Madison's ... um ... "super predator" problem, to borrow Hillary Clinton's euphemism. Lots of lead flying these days Dave, and none of it is coming from bolt-action rifles, ya hear me? Have you noticed? (Why don't you write about that?) I don't think the trigger pullers care so much about you and Kareem Abdul Caire's "special school." They mostly care about "settling beefs," slinging drugs and their no-snitch culture. They have no interest in preserving the integrity, stability and beauty of Madison.

I propose removing the "dams" that keep their "water level" so high (i.e. Section 8, EBT/SNAP, Urban League/United Way, etc.). Let them flow back downstream to Chicago, and let the levels here return to the natural levels that the community can support (i.e. Badger athletics and the few that possess marketable skills). Substantially reduce that footprint.

Let's make it happen!

- "Citizen Dave's Remington 700"

Apr 26, 2016 12:39 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous


Like others have requested, where are the "pristine" lakes? And did you look up the definition of "pristine".

And what are the criteria by which EPA measures the "excellent shape" of the lakes? What was the sample size? (If it was N=10, then only 9 lakes in the sample area, all or parts of 3 states, would be considered in "excellent shape". What exactly do you mean by "excellent shape", anyway?

You make massive assumptions based on little knowledge, just to prove you didn't screw up with your ridiculous comment about abundant pristine lakes. You should leave the thinking to those who can.

Apr 26, 2016 02:52 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Keep it coming Dave. I love it that you get under the skin of all the nut cake liberals her in the socialist state of Madison.

Apr 26, 2016 03:56 pm
 Posted by  David Blaska

12:39 PM is obviously unfamiliar with the EPA's National Lakes Assessment, yet he makes massive assumptions based on little knowledge.

Apr 26, 2016 08:29 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous


Can you provide a link to the site where you got the EPA data?? The EPA website says the 2012 data isn't yet available, and the data from 2007 doesn't have any similarity to your claim. Thanks.

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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