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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Does this mean I should stop calling the Bark River the People's River?

The River Rat caught wind of some fan mail that arrived at River Alliance offices last week and as a blog-besotted communist rodent, I just had to post it for all you river lovers to enjoy:

After reading an article about the Delafield, WI dam removal; I wonder what gives this ulta-liberal [sic] organization of communist Madison a say in what goes on here?

The authority you bring is not knowledge, but your assertion of what looks best in your eyes, not how it affects others.

Please…get a real job and focus on raising a God-loving family and not this type of foolishness. Stop being a busy-body and acting as though you have some type of authority.

This is what makes me sick when we all know this poor women didn’t contact your organization, you guy’s [sic] pressured her!

Thanks for letting me speak my mind,

Area resident

Dear “area resident”,

Thanks for sharing your mind!

Being the River Rat, I respect folks who are passionate defenders of their home rivers. But I have to ask – did you get as angry when you found out about how the Delafield Common Council recently came within a single vote of approving a motion to seize the private property of one tax-paying resident to benefit the backyard of six others and take on the $700,000 repair bill that came with it ? You might not need to point so far west if you want to get mad about “communists” and “busybodies”.

You ask, too, what gives the River Alliance, or anyone else for that matter, a say in what goes on in your home river? There’s a two-part answer to that very good question. First, though the desk chairs, computers and paperclips of this fine organization are located in Madison, its soul lives in the more than 3000 members that occupy every county of this state and swim, fish, hike, explore and care for just about every foot of river, stream and creek in Wisconsin. Some of them are your fellow neighbors and “area residents”. One of them is the dam owner.

Second, there is this little piece of Wisconsin Constitution called the Public Trust Doctrine. Our founding fathers – bless their busybody little hearts – included language that ensured that the waters of Wisconsin belong to the people of Wisconsin and are forever free. That means that every Wisconsinite, whether they be a riparian owner, “area resident”, user of the river or river enthusiast, has the opportunity - or the “authority” if that’s the term you prefer – to have a say in how our public waters are managed. That’s the privilege and the responsibility of living in a place where no can ever put a fence across a flowing river and say “private property: keep out”.

So call it red menace or anything else you like but it ain’t just coming from Madison. People who love rivers are everywhere and are multiplying like, well, rats. That means you can count on them to stir healthy debate about how rivers should be managed all over this state. And the River Alliance will always continue the hard job of supporting river rats and giving those rivers a voice.

Your in-stream comrade,
The River Rat

(P.S. More on the story of the Nemahbin Roller Mill dam soon. A soon as we're done coercing the dam owner to give us more Krispy Kremes)

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