Posts Tagged ‘Black Earth Creek’

Victory for Black Earth Creek!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Black Earth Creek, an example of a restored trout stream par excellence, has been spared a massive assault. Western Dane County will stay a little more rural for a bit longer. Bicyclists, nature lovers, fisherman — indeed anyone who breathes — should be thankful to a hard working group of people who made this happen.

Stefi Harris and the Western Dane County Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment are to be commended for a fight well fought…and won!

Capital Area Regional Planning Commission members: Thank you. Thank you for your good judgment, and backbone.

Way to go gang!

Here’s the word from the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources (apologies for losing the letter’s original formatting):

101 S. Webster St.

Box 7921

Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7921

Telephone 608-266-2621

FAX 608-267-3579

TTY Access via relay – 711

Jim Doyle, Governor

Matthew J. Frank, Secretary

November 23, 2009

Carl A. Sinderbrand

Axley Brynelson, LLP

P.O. Box 1767

Madison, WI 53703

Subject: Village of Mazomanie Request Regarding Amendment to Dane County Water Quality Plan

Dear Mr. Sinderbrand:

Your letter to Thomas Gilbert, Bureau of Watershed Management, dated August 21, 2009, has been referred to me. That letter, submitted on behalf of the Village of Mazomanie (Village), requests the Department of Natural Resources (Department) to review the June 11, 2009, decision of the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) to not approve an amendment to the Dane County areawide water quality management plan (plan). The Department declines to reconsider that decision.

There is no statutory or administrative rule procedure that directs the Department to review regional planning agency decisions to deny amendments to areawide water quality management plans. Section NR 121.07, Wis. Admin. Code, establishes the procedures for approval of plans and plan amendments for designated areas of the state (such as Dane County). Section NR 121.07(1) (a), Wis. Admin. Code, provides that the Department shall review and approve or disapprove each plan for designated areas. Section NR 121.07(3), Wis. Admin. Code, provides that the Department may approve a planning agency’s amendments to a plan for a designated area. There is no provision in s. NR 121.07, however, that directs the Department to review and approve or disapprove a planning agency’s decision to deny a proposed amendment to a plan for a designated area.

In addition to this lack of procedural direction, there is a significant practical reason for the Department not to reconsider denials of amendments in designated areas. Dane County is a designated area for areawide water quality management planning, under s. NR 121.06, Wis. Admin. Code. The Department contracts with CARPC to conduct water quality management planning work in Dane County. In my March 18, 2009 letter to Jeffrey Miller, chair of CARPC, I made it clear that,

“We strongly believe that CARPC plays a necessary and critical role in shaping the future of Dane County. We are relying on CARPC to provide land use and water quality resource information and analysis, and a strong direction for local planning efforts.”

Further, I went on to state that,

“In reconsidering the Mazomanie amendment request, the Commission should focus on water quality impacts as the primary basis for a decision, and should consider the guidance and direction in this letter.”

CARPC has taken the focus suggested in our letter and the Department defers to their judgement in this case. As stated, the Department has procedures to review plans and approved amendments to plans and does review those decisions by planning agencies for designated areas. By approving or disapproving plans and plan amendments previously approved by regional planning agencies, and by re-evaluating the approval status of plans at least every 5 years, the Department fulfills its responsibility to protect, maintain and improve the quality and management of the waters of the state in designated areas. Since denials of amendments to plans in designated areas do nothing to change plans previously approved by the Department, they would result in no change to water quality, such that the Department has little or no reason to reconsider them. In fact, to do so would take resources away from other priority work of the Department at a time when those resources are in very short supply.

The Department has not historically been involved in reviewing denials of amendments to plans, unless the planning agency has failed to provide a water quality basis for the denial. If CARPC or another regional planning agency denies an amendment without stating a clear water quality basis for its denial, the Department has requested that the regional planning agency reconsider its decision. The Department did so in this case, by letter to CARPC, dated March 18, 2009. Specifically, I noted,

“Pursuant to state statutes and administrative codes (chapter NR 121), decisions regarding amendments must be based on water quality impacts and the cost-effectiveness of sewerage systems.”

However, once the regional planning agency states a water quality basis for not approving an amendment to a plan (as CARPC has done in this case), as long as the decision is consistent with the approved plan and was done in accordance with approved planning procedures, including a sufficient public participation process, the Department will not reconsider that decision, for the reasons stated in this letter.

The Department encourages the Village to work with CARPC to address the water quality concerns raised by CARPC when it decided not to accept the proposed amendment to the plan.


Todd Ambs, Administrator

Division of Water


Jeffrey Miller, Chair, CARPC

Kamran Mesbah, Deputy Director, CARPC

Scott Stokes, President; Village of Mazomanie

Sue Dietzen, Clerk; Village of Mazomanie

Ron Adler, Chair; Town of Mazomanie

Maria Van Cleve, Clerk; Town of Mazomanie

John St. Peter, Edgarton, St. Peter, Petak & Rosenfeldt

Timothy Fenner, Axley Brynelson

Andy Morton – WDNR – SCR

Tom Gilbert – WDNR – WT/3

Robin Nyffeler- LS/8

Judy Ohm-LS/8

Update: Robbie Webber informs me that there is another group which needs to be thanked for their hard work:

Just an FYI that there is another group working very hard on the CARPC
issues, and they worked extra hard on the Mazo decision, in
cooperation with Arnold and Steffi Harris.

Capital Region Advocacy Network for Environmental Sustainability
(CRANES) has been meeting twice a month for over a year – more or less
since the new RPC was formed – to build a network/alliance of
environmental groups and individuals that are willing to speak up to
preserve the environment in Dane County (and beyond, but we are
working on Dane County first.) Many of the names will be familiar to

Here’s a blog from Brenda back in March about our efforts to fight the
Mazo plan. It includes a letter that was sent out by the group urging
people to show up at the original CARPC hearing.

Indeed! Many thanks for all that great work!

Trashing the Earth. Black Earth Creek, That Is

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Below is a letter I recently received from a great, fairly new group seeking to preserve Dane County’s countryside.

Apparently yet another developer, thinking most selfishly (as per usual), is trying to develop on fragile lands. Worst of all, it is planned in a way that dictates automobile use for every move.

Thus, the Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment could use your help.

The letter is long & involved, so here is the Cliff Notes version:

1. Write/email to the addresses at the end of the letter (Co. Exec., Mayor, CARPC, +your county sup, etc.), SOON–like, today. (The meeting is in early June, but we need to build momentum now.)

2. CC: Steffi Harris (email below)

3. Tell them that you oppose the sprawl development proposed on sensitive lands in the Black Earth Creek Valley near Mazomanie and that you support the CARPC original decision to deny the development.

In a subsequent post I’ll be sending out the DNR letters–which were astonishing in their ignorance of natural processes. But don’t get wrapped up in the details (the DNR letters are quite obfuscatory), just write your letter!


Dear Friends 5-12-09

This is an appeal to all of you who are alarmed by the speed at which thousands of acres of Dane County’s farmland have been paved and shingled over, its previously wild and natural areas despoiled, its many creeks and wetlands turned into drainage ditches for cookie-cutter suburbs that emerged in the wake of seemingly unstoppable destruction. We have a fair chance to control this insidious process here in Dane County by stopping an approval for a single, but important, request for an urban service area (USA) to the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) for a large development proposal near the Village of Mazomanie. We need you to write letters to appropriate agencies; and even more significant, we need you to attend CARPC’s public hearing next month.

Some of you might be aware that a year ago, the Village of Mazomanie applied to CARPC for an USA extension on 187 acres of farmland, located at the junction of US Hwy 14 and State Hwy 78, approximately 1.5 miles east of the village. What distinguishes this USA request from all the others is that it is the first time that CARPC had refused to recommend a USA request for the approval to DNR. As a result of the refusal, the village – goaded on by their developer — then appealed to DNR to grant its own approval for the development without the benefit of CARPC support. Instead of making a decision, DNR sent Mazomanie’s USA request back to CARPC for reconsideration along with a thinly veiled directive to approve the request this second time.

The direction in which Dane County will turn in regard to sprawl, environmental protection and smart sustainable growth hinges on the outcome of Mazomanie case. If CARPC caves into pressure from the developer, the village and their allies, and approves the Village of Mazomanie USA request on the second round, that agency will never be able again to say “no” to any other proposal for sprawl, no matter how destructive such a proposal might be from environmental and smart growth perspective. The agency will render itself ineffective as a protector of the county’s water quality, open spaces and farmland. Smart and sustainable growth will become a dead letter before it even is given a chance to work.

Although most of us do not live near the proposed development, this case is relevant to all of us who live in this county. Just remember, as Mazomanie goes so does the rest of Dane County.

Description of the Proposed Development

The developer, Hawthorne and Stone LLC proposes to build 488 housing units, a supermarket, a liquor store and a strip mall in the amendment area. What is proposed here is a self-contained suburban island, separated from the mother village by about 1.5 miles and surrounded by cornfields and marshlands. This development was not planned in response to any community needs. It was superimposed on both the Village of Mazomanie and the Town of Mazomanie by the developer who apparently saw it as an opportunity to buy cheap land for easily accessible low cost financing widely available to developers prior to recent mortgage industry fiasco.

Ironically the Village of Mazomanie seeks the USA extension for an area where the most essential urban services are either insufficient or non-existent. For example, the wastewater treatment plant built in 2000 lacks capacity to absorb usage of additional development of the magnitude cited in Mazomanie’s USA request. Likewise, State Hwy 14, which is to serve the proposed development’s as the main arterial connector to the village and to Madison, is already congested during peak traffic hours. The Village of Mazomanie has no stormwater management utility, or any kind of public transportation for disabled or senior citizens.

Environmental Impact

The proposed development would affect three natural coldwater streams and several wetland areas located in or adjacent to the amendment area: Black Earth Creek, Halfway Prairie Creek and Wendt Creek. The affected segment of Black Earth Creek supports both warm and coldwater aquatic communities. Halfway Prairie and Wendt Creeks were degraded over the years and are now classified as forage fisheries. The wetlands present in the area are remnants of once more extensive wetland network located along the creeks in the low lying areas. Up to this day nearby residents of rural homes report seeing sand hill cranes wading through swampy terrain. All three creeks and surrounding wetlands retain their restorative potential.

History of Mazomanie’s USA application Process

In May 2008, the Village of Mazomanie applied to CARPC for the USA extension. In August 2008, after two public hearings, CARPC turned down Mazomanie’s USA amendment request on 7 to 4 vote.

In October 2008, the village went directly to DNR to ask for the USA extension approval.

In March 2009 DNR sent Mazomanie’s USA request back to CARPC for second consideration, along with a sharply worded admonishment for CARPC to approve the request upon the second review. In addition DNR stated that CARPC criteria for USA and LSA (limited service area) reviews, which were adopted 2-28-08 after the completion of a full public hearing process and approved by DNR 12-13-08, were not to be applied any longer. Instead DNR letter insists, only narrowly defined water quality criteria should be used on review of Mazomanie’s USA application. (Those who wish to see the original material relating to this DNR created problem, should examine the attached files.)

What needs to be done at this time

The CARPC hearing on Mazomanie’s USA request is tentatively scheduled for June 11, 2009. At this time the developer and their law firm, which is also the legal representative of the village, are working very hard to get the majority of the CARPC votes. We need to work even harder. So please, help us.

Spread the word about the intended urban sprawl project in the cornfields and wetlands east of Mazomanie. Tell your like-minded friends about this outrage. Contact us if you want more information. E-mail a letter to CARPC, Kathleen Falk, Mayor of Madison, Dane County Towns Association. If you are in town on the day of the hearing, please do not miss it. Please speak up or just be there in solidarity for this worthy cause.

Thank you for anything you might be able to do to help us.


Stefi Harris, Dennis Franke, Arnold Harris
Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment
3427 County Rd P
Mt Horeb WI 53572
(608) 798-4833

E-mail addresses of:


Dane County Executive

Mayor of Madison

Dane County Towns Association