An effort to create North America’s first international wildlife refuge is gathering speed. The refuge will be a partnership between Canada and the U.S. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has more:
An effort to create North America’s first international wildlife refuge is gathering speed. The refuge will be a partnership between Canada and the U-S. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has details:
The Detroit River was once home to a thriving set of coastal wetlands and marshes. It was an area teeming with wildlife. But after more than a century of development – most of that habitat has been lost. The proposed international wildlife refuge hopes to turn back the pressures for more development.
The refuge would include the Canadian and U-S sides of the lower Detroit River – lands from the coal-choked Zug Island to the mouth of Lake Erie.
If established, the refuge will be a patchwork federal, state, and privately owned land. And so far, they’ve had some success. Several small islands have been donated or are being bought for inclusion into the refuge.
The first step will be to set up the boundaries of the refuge. Once established, funds may be appropriated for things like buying more land, establishing conservation agreements, and re-creating wildlife habitat.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium I’m Mark Brush.
No one likes the idea of a major powerline running through their
backyard. But a proposed bulk transmission line in Wisconsin is
generating more than the usual amount of controversy. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
No one likes the idea of a major power line running through their backyard.
But a proposed bulk transmission line in Wisconsin is generating more than
the usual amount of controversy. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Stephanie Hemphill reports:
Steve Olson will never forget the night of June 25, 1998. He was working
the overnight shift at Minnesota power’s control center when something went
“I really didn’t know exactly what was going on at the time but I knew it was
serious. I knew it was something bigger than Minnesota power. It’s within
a matter of a minute or two we had half a dozen lines opening.”
The open lines meant the electric grid was breaking apart. The grid
connects Minnesota power to eight states and three Canadian provinces.
lightning strikes in Wisconsin – 200 miles away – caused the breakup. Over
40,000 people lost power.
John Heino is a spokesman for Minnesota power. He says that kind of
situation is one step away from a regional blackout.
“Normally this system is designed to work together so neighboring states and
systems can support each other, but in that situation, it just breaks up
into pieces and there’s no guarantee the power plants in that area are
enough to supply the load that’s left.”
The near miss convinced Minnesota power to do something to shore up the weak
link in the regional electric grid.
The Duluth-based company joined with Wisconsin Public Service to propose a
345-kilovolt transmission line from Duluth Minnesota to Wausau Wisconsin.
It would tap into cheap coal and hydro power from western Minnesota and
Manitoba. Heino says the new link would lighten the load on existing lines
and make service more reliable.
“With all these sources to the north and the west, and you have the Twin
Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago, to the south and the east, so there’s this
general day in and day out tendency for the power to flow to the south and
The plan has attracted a lot of opposition along the proposed route. Eight
counties and over fifty local governments have gone on record against it.
Opponents worry about property values, loss of farmland, and health issues.
(sound of meeting)
At a recent meeting in superior Wisconsin, nearly 200 angry people showed up
to confront Minnesota power officials.
Person 1: “Both of these proposed routes would go through our property. We sunk our
life savings into it and we thought we could protect it. Lo and behold,
what did we know?”
Person 2: “As far as I’m concerned, this is a dinosaur. We’re looking at smaller
leading edge technologies that are more adapted to local generation.
Person 3: “I have a very nice neighbor and the power line is going across his land
he said to me, if it comes across my land, I’ll shoot’em.
Some Wisconsin farmers oppose the line because of problems they’re having
with other electric lines. Debbie Beyrl says ground currents have made her
cows sick. That’s reduced milk production and made it harder to keep the
business going. She’s also worried about her family’s health.
“I worry about my kids because they’re in the barn helping us. And I think
it’ll put us out of business, not that we’d want to quit but I think it
would finish us off, yeah.”
Power company officials say ground currents are caused by improper wiring or
local distribution lines, not large transmission lines.
But environmentalists question the need for the line. Chris Laforge sells
wind and solar electric generating systems. He says utilities could avoid
building expensive power lines by using alternative systems.
“It’s a perfect match. Distributed photovoltaic generation on rooftops of
large buildings can meet peak air conditioning demand because electricity
gets made right when you need it.”
Power companies say there’s great potential in alternative technologies, but
the current need is acute. Jim Loock is the chief electrical engineer
at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. That agency has the authority
to approve the line.
“Our electrical system is growing at 2-3% a year, so we need 200-300
megawatts of additional supply every year. That’s why we say part of the
equation is energy conservation and demand side management, we feel strongly
that the consumer needs to conserve energy and use it as wisely as possible.”
Hearings are scheduled this month in Minnesota and this summer in Wisconsin.
if approved, construction could start in September 2001.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill.
A survey reveals most states are working from development planning
statutes put together in the 1920’s. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Lester Graham reports… one group is urging states to update their laws
to help prevent urban sprawl:
A survey reveals most states are working from development planning statutes
put together in the 1920’s. One group is urging states to update their laws to help
prevent urban sprawl. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The American Planning Association says when Herbert Hoover was Secretary of
Commerce, the Department adopted some model planning acts. Today, many state
planning laws are still based on them. Stuart Meck is a senior researcher
with the American planning association. He says local governments control
much of zoning and planning. But the state is often the most powerful
influence on development.
“Every time a state department of transportation programs a highway
widening, or puts in a new interchange, or authorizes some type of loan to
local government to build or expand a treatment plant, that has some sort of
an impact on development.”
Meck says some states are tinkering around the edges of their planning laws.
But he argues if states are going to control urban sprawl, they need to
completely overhaul their planning statutes.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
In the Great Lakes region states have been slow to put together
legislation to address urban sprawl. Only one state in the region,
Wisconsin, has passed comprehensive reforms of its planning statutes.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… now
developers, environmentalists, and political leaders in that state are
all reading from the same blue-print:
In the Great Lakes region states have been slow to put together legislation
to address urban sprawl. Only one state in the region, Wisconsin, has passed
comprehensive reforms of its planning statutes. Now developers, environmentalists,
political leaders in that state are all reading from the same blueprint. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
At the American Planning Association’s office in Chicago, Stuart Meck says
there’s been a huge surge in interest in trying to curb out-of-control
“It was almost as if somebody had turned on a switch in communities
across the United States and in state legislatures and there was just this
whole different environment starting about three years ago and it was no
longer business as usual.”
Meck is a senior researcher with the American Planning Association. He’s
been working to compile updated models for planning and zoning legislation.
He says the group found most state planning statutes are based on model acts
adopted by the U.S. Commerce Department in the 1920’s.
After World War II, development in the suburbs boomed, but planning laws
didn’t keep pace. Meck says most communities reacted to growth by turning to
the state, and the state reacted by building roads. Meck says few places
actually followed any kind of plan.
“And we’ve tried all these fixes like, you know, expanding our
interstate system, and widening highways and stuff like that and it doesn’t
seem to be working. The cumulative effect of all of those things is they use
up a lot of farmland; they create suburban areas in which there’s no
activity after dark, and we think what’s going on right now is sort of a
revisiting of some of earlier types of development forums, and seeing
whether there’s some value to that.”
Stuart Meck says the American Planning Association is finding cities want to turn away from endless
tracts of suburban homes on meandering streets and instead look at building neighborhoods of homes,
stores, and schools.
But an urban area’s growth is affected by development outside a single community. Meck says that’s
why state governments need to establish a framework for planning, uniform laws that help individual
communities and larger areas manage growth.
In the Great Lakes region, only one state has passed legislation that over-hauls its planning
Tom Larson is the director of land use and environmental affairs with the Wisconsin Realtors
Association. He says in the past, Wisconsin’s debate was about whether growth should be stopped.
That argument pitted pro-growth developers against anti-growth environmentalists, and towns were
not thinking of anything beyond their own borders.
‘Communities were often planning very myopically, looking at only one particular issue without
looking at potential impacts on various… on other areas of their community.”
Larson says Wisconsin’s new comprehensive planning statues acknowledge there will be growth, and
tackles the question of how to grow better.
The new statutes require more public involvement. Public hearings must be held so that residents
and neighboring communities know what the state or local government is planning. Tom Larson says
communities now have to think about how development affects not just the prosperity of a community,
but how it affects things such as parks, transportation patterns, and schools. The statutes also
close loopholes that allowed communities to ignore their own plans whenever it suited them.
Brian Ohm is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He’s credited with
bringing together environmentalists, realtors, homebuilders, and government planners to draft the
legislation. Ohm says Wisconsin’s planning law reforms are broad. They’re not just about preserving
“It goes way beyond just saving an acre of farmland here or there. There’s a lot of issue that are
involved and hopefully through good local comprehensive planning as a base, we can begin to address
the broader and more complex issues of sprawl.”
Ohm says reforming Wisconsin’s planning statutes won’t necessarily stop sprawl. But the
comprehensive planning process adopted by the state will make communities aware of what they’re
‘You know, communities, through their plans, will still be able to be as pro or anti sprawl as they
want. The state’s not going to dictate the outcome of that, but again it’s going to have to be—
those decisions as made
my local governments are going to be made on a more informed set of factors
through the comprehensive planning process.”
Ohm says the new planning statutes will mean local communities, counties,
and the state will all be aware of each other’s plans and how their plans
affect overall growth in an area.
Tom Larson at the Wisconsin Realtors Association says following the
comprehensive planning process will mean some changes and some
inconveniences for realtors and developers. But he says it will also mean
everyone will understand what a community’s goals are and how every sector
fits into the plan.
“What our end goal was, was to be able to plan through consensus, to
bring all the interest groups together at the local level as well as at the
state level and say, ‘How do we want our communities to grow; how do we open
up communication, make everybody part of this process, and how do we build
through consensus?’ I think that’s what… hopefully that’s what our message
is and hopefully what the legislation will encourage communities to do.”
All the parties involved say changing Wisconsin’s planning statutes was not
easy. Not every issue was resolved. They also say Wisconsin never could have
managed its growth without over-hauling the law. The American Planning
Association says states that try to tinker around the edges of their 1920’s-style
planning laws will find little success.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Great Lakes regulators are worried people will start building closer to
the lakes because the water levels are lower. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham reports…. they want local governments to
restrict building homes where the owners might regret it later:
Big homes on big lawns on long winding roads. That’s how many
residential subdivisions have been designed for decades. Now, some
people are trying to change these traditional methods and make
development less damaging to the environment. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Todd Witter visits one site: