Spring, 2014 | ELECTION WATCH
Letters - Spring election - 2014
Polk County waters: Blue, red and impaired
Polk County sportsmen and women should pay very close attention to the process revolving around the updating of Polk County's Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.
If you fish, hunt, boat, swim, own an outdoor sports-related business, or do anything related to the water in Polk County lakes and rivers, the shoreland zoning ordinance provisions should be very important to you.
The Wisconsin DNR, a month ago, released the 2014 list of impaired waters (http://dnr.gov). Polk County currently has 10 lakes and rivers listed as impaired. It is proposed to add nine more to the list. Add nine more? We are going backward in improving the quality of the water in our lakes and rivers.
The Apple River Flowage is currently the largest contributor of phosphorus to the entire St. Croix National Scenic River watershed.
Balsam Lake is proposed to be added to the impaired waters list, and that is where the 2014 Governor's Fishing Opener will be held in May.
There are not too many definitions of the word "impaired," and all of them are not good.
Why would anyone, with any sense of reason or common sense, even consider less restriction on shoreland zoning, faced with that knowledge?
Oddly, water quality in Polk County has become a partisan issue.
If you attended the land information committee meetings since the draft ordinance and the related amendments were offered, it was pretty obvious by the public comments offered, that the issue splits on party lines. Why?
As the process moves forward over the summer, I'm sure the voices heard during the public hearing opportunities will follow the same pattern. Like they say in Madison and Washington, "follow the money." The voices from one side, a few contractors, real estate salespeople and those looking to benefit financially in some way in the short term, will support weakening the restrictions of shoreland zoning on our lakes and rivers. The voices on the side of protecting our waters and trying to at least maintain the water quality at its current level and hopefully improve it, will be members of lake associations and protection districts, residents, property owners and taxpayers who are concerned about the long-term quality of the water in Polk County.
The voices we have not heard, so far, are the voices of the sportsmen and women who have been silent on this issue. The sporting heritage clubs and sports equipment retailers who support and rely on income from water-related activities need to be heard on this issue. If water quality degrades in Polk County, all activities around our lakes and rivers will be affected. Less people fishing, less people boating, hunting and enjoying our lakes. Property values may stagnate or even decline. Less people recreating on our lakes means less sporting equipment and licenses sold. Less people visiting for water-related activities means less sales tax collected to help lower property taxes.
I think it's time that water sports-minded people and business owners take a stand to help Polk County improve its water quality and speak against weakening the restrictions on lakeshore property with self-serving amendments to the draft Polk County Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.