DNR to re­view rul­ing in fa­vor of Ho-Chunk Na­tion in frac sand dis­pute

Wisconsin Gazette - - Front Page - By Lisa Neff Staff writer

A planned re­view by the Wis­con­sin Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources jeop­ar­dizes a vic­tory for the Ho-Chunk Na­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists fight­ing a frac-sand op­er­a­tion in the state.

This spring, an ad­min­is­tra­tive law judge with the Wis­con­sin Divi­sion of Hear­ings and Ap­peals de­liv­ered a vic­tory to the cam­paign to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment and tribal re­sources by in­val­i­dat­ing a wet­land fill per­mit is­sued by the DNR to Ge­or­gia-based Me­teor Tim­ber.

The com­pany wants the per­mit to build an in­dus­trial sand pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity and rail project in Mon­roe County.

The project has met with strong op­po­si­tion from Clean Wis­con­sin and Ho-Chunk Na­tion, rep­re­sented by Mid­west En­vi­ron­men­tal Ad­vo­cates.

The per­mit at the cen­ter of the dis­pute would al­low Me­teor Tim­ber to fill in over 16 acres of wet­lands, in­clud­ing more than 13 acres of rare forested wet­lands.

Op­po­nents ar­gued that the DNR should have de­nied the per­mit based upon in­ad­e­quate guar­an­tees against sig­nif­i­cant, ad­verse im­pacts to the en­vi­ron­ment — and a judge agreed.

MEA de­scribed the judge’s de­ci­sion as a “hard-fought” vic­tory, but one that was threat­ened in late May, when the DNR said its sec­re­tary — a po­lit­i­cal ap­pointee of Scott Walker — would re­view the or­der. Me­teor Tim­ber pe­ti­tioned for the DNR re­view, as well as filed a com­plaint in cir­cuit court.

“We urged the DNR to re­ject Me­teor’s pe­ti­tion be­cause it skirts the im­par­tial ju­di­cial process and risks over­turn­ing a well­rea­soned ad­min­is­tra­tive de­ci­sion,” Carolyn Gar­nett, leg­isla­tive at­tor­ney for HoChunk Na­tion, stated in a news re­lease. “This ac­tion clearly un­der­cuts Me­teor’s claim that this project has broad lo­cal sup­port.”

She said the judge’s in­val­i­da­tion of the per­mit up­held a tenet of the Ho-Chunk’s gov­ern­ment: to pro­tect its peo­ple and its lands for this and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

“The ex­pan­sive and per­ma­nent de­struc­tion of the rare wet­lands on the land­scape would broadly im­pact the Na­tion’s peo­ple, land and cul­tural her­itage,” Gar­nett said.

Clean Wis­con­sin and Mid­west En­vi­ron­men­tal Ad­vo­cates say the judge’s rul­ing was cor­rect and pledged to con­tinue their fight.

MEA, in a press state­ment, said still un­cer­tain is the sta­tus of leg­is­la­tion that would al­low Me­teor Tim­ber to avoid the re­quire­ment for a per­mit and un­der­cut the chal­lenge to the per­mit.

Six­teen acres of wet­lands would be lost.

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