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Cleaning Wisconsin’s Waters: From Command and Control to Collaborative Decision Michael Kraft Public and Environmental Affairs UW-Green Bay Prepared for.

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Presentation on theme: "Cleaning Wisconsin’s Waters: From Command and Control to Collaborative Decision Michael Kraft Public and Environmental Affairs UW-Green Bay Prepared for."— Presentation transcript:

1 Cleaning Wisconsin’s Waters: From Command and Control to Collaborative Decision Michael Kraft Public and Environmental Affairs UW-Green Bay Prepared for Green Innovations 2010

2 Outline of the Presentation Brief history of the Fox River Basin and cleanup efforts From the Clean Water Act to collaborative decision making Focus on toxic chemicals: PCBs Agreement on the cleanup plan How is it going? What does its future look like? Implications for green operations and sustainability? Drawn from chapter of same name in Mazmanian and Kraft, eds., Toward Sustainable Communities (2 nd ed., MIT Press, 2009).

3 The Fox River Basin Lower Fox River stretches 39 miles from its source near the cities of Neenah and Menasha in the northwest corner of Lake Winnebago north through the Fox Cities to its mouth at the head of the bay of Green Bay. The lower Fox River Basin encompasses approximately 400 square miles of drainage area in Northeastern Wisconsin, and about 6,400 square miles downstream, including parts of East Central Wisconsin

4 The Fox River Basin Clean surface waters are the primary source of drinking water for about 100,000 people. Industries throughout the region use water for papermaking and food processing, among many other industrial activities. High-quality surface water also helps to satisfy the public’s diverse recreational interests— fishing, swimming, canoeing, sailing, boating. The river basin and bay of Green Bay are vital to the Great Lakes; a key part that ecosystem.

5 Studies of the Fox River The river and bay have been the object of intensive scientific investigation Particularly so for movement of toxic chemicals through the land, air, and water. Green Bay mass balance study was the first in the world to measure the presence, transport, and fate of bioaccumulating toxic chemicals in a river and bay environment.

6 The Problem of Toxic Chemicals Among the most serious water quality problems is persistent toxic chemicals. More than 100 potentially toxic substances have been identified in the water, fish, and sediment of the Fox River. These include PCBs, dioxins, and furans; mercury, lead and other heavy metals; pesticides; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; and volatile hydrocarbons. PCBs are the most important.

7 What Will It Take to Restore the Fox River? Water quality experts argue that restoration of area waters requires: Reduction of nutrient loading Reduction of solid material entering the river Protection and restoration of wetland habitat Elimination or reduction of persistent organic chemicals such as PCBs to levels that produce no adverse effects on the ecosystem

8 Focus on PCBs Between 1954 and 1997, area paper mills discharged an estimated 700,000 pounds of PCBs into the river. DNR risk analysis points to priority for PCB cleanup Lower Fox River and Green Bay among the most PCB-contaminated sites in nation. Comparable to Hudson River, on Superfund National Priorities List in The largest cleanup of contaminated sediments by volume ever attempted.

9 Background for River Cleanup: Federal Clean Water Act Improvements in water quality locally and nationally From 1971 to 1990, total suspended solids discharged by point sources to Fox River declined by 91 percent. Between 1962 and 1990, biological oxygen demand loadings fell by 94 percent. Much of the progress tied to Clean Water Act. Sought to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity” of nation’s waters. Remaining problems mostly nonpoint sources. But how to deal with them and at what cost?

10 The Appeal of Collaborative Decision Making Community sustainability in region requires use of collaborative decision making. Command and control no longer sufficient. Replace adversarial relations between government and industry? Foster participation by a diversity of stakeholders? Build trust, and a freer exchange of information? Thus lead to more open decision-making, greater commitment to environmental quality goals, and consensus on what to do.

11 Collaboration in Practice Remedial Action Plan of mid-1980s and early 1990s. Studies, recommendations, and agenda for action. Green Bay RAP a model in Great Lakes Basin Vision of future of the river and bay rooted in ecosystem view of environmental issues. Broadly endorsed by RAP participants as sensible and essential for sustainability of river basin/bay. Facilitated integration of science and action—for a while. And collaboration among participants.

12 The PCB Challenge to Collaboration More than fifty contaminated sediment deposits along the Fox. Most just downstream of industrial outfalls. Each is unique. Much debate over cleanup options. Initial collaboration/partnerships fades. WDNR and paper industry create Fox River Coalition with hope of avoiding Superfund and leading to a lower cost remediation. Environmentalists critical of FRC. But DNR called it a "national model for successful environmental restoration”

13 Collaboration Weakens Late 1990s-early 2000s, FRC discusses options and continues negotiations. Fish and Wildlife Service uses NRDA. EPA in threatened intervention under Superfund. State/local officials and mills denounced EPA action, praised "public-private partnership" as model. High cost of cleanup and options to contain costs. Removal and capping. Monitoring of deposits. Scientists favor removal.

14 Collaboration Fails to Fully Live Up to Expectations EPA chooses informal Superfund implementation. Pushes parties to negotiate settlement. October 2001: proposed plan and 2003 RODs 2007 DNR approves capping to reduce costs. Negotiations continue over cost, landfill options. Late DNR orders dredging of most contaminated sections by Disappointment: “The project is no longer a cooperative operation.” Cleanup continues. Disputes with insurance companies.

15 Conclusions Focused on history of collaboration. Worked in some ways, failed in other ways. Cleanup is finally under way, but DNR had to order it. Collaboration is difficult in later stages of decision making. Why? High costs, ill-defined goals, and limited public understanding of issues. Is Fox River cleanup of PCBs a model for nation? Challenges reflect modern era of sustainability.


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