History of Airport Expansion
In the history of the West Bend airport expansion saga, the cancellation of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was the grand finale.
In the military a debriefing is a commonly used process to review the project for good and bad procedures. Watershed Watchers is using a form of debriefing as a segment for closure of the airport expansion saga.
A July 8, 2009, letter (with supporting documentation) was sent to Dan Millenacker, FAA, a week before the famous July 15, 2009 announcement of the cancellation of the EIS. The July 8th letter questioned a letter to the editor from a member of the Airport Commission. The commission member was questioning a letter from a Watershed Watchers member. This information needs to be part of the debriefing.
Just as important to the debriefing segment is the letter that was sent to Dan Millenacker on September 15, 2003, which explained the many flaws and unfounded reasons for airport expansion. The letter’s main intent was to question why an EIS hadn’t been considered as essential for this project, and requesting an EIS to prove the destruction of the airport expansion project and the limited number of operations, management’s decisions, and benefits to the general public.
The folly of the airport expansion was appropriately put to rest with the EIS cancellation. The threatened property owners have moved forward with their lives, and, finally, after decades they have been able to do the maintenance on their properties that had been on hold for so many years, fearing they would not receive equitable retribution for the necessary enhancements.
In retrospect, tax payers witnessed years of tax dollars being wasted on poor management, inept decisions, and fallacious information.
In retrospect, Watershed Watchers recommends more mindful use of our taxes, land, water, and more respect for its citizens in the future.
In The Beginning
On June 3, 1993, an informational meeting at the West Bend City Hall was hosted by Rust Environment and Infrastructure to discuss the three options for an airport expansion. That prompted the beginning of the grassroots group, Neighbors Against Airport Growth, which held a meeting on June 23, 1993, at the Trenton Town Hall. Eventually a name change to Taxpayers Against Airport Growth emphasized that city residents of West Bend would have to pay taxes toward airport growth, neither needed, nor of benefit to them.
The group hired an attorney, who helped write a petition asking the City Council to adopt a resolution against spending more funds toward airport expansion or to hold a referendum on the issue of spending. After West Bend residents got more than 1000 signatures in eleven days in the prescribed way, the City Attorney alleged that the wording was incorrect to force the issue. The City did agree to an EIS, but it wasn’t completed because of lack of funds.
In 1994 Coffman & Associates was hired to draft a Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) and final EA. In 2002 TAAG members went to City Hall for a public hearing on the Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA). The grassroots group was ready to challenge what appeared to be an inferior document. More than 100 concerned citizens attended the hearing and voiced their opinions and many more wrote letters. The TAAG position paper for the meeting had been written for the group by the Chicago Environmental Law and Policy Center, whose criticisms of the PEA document were analogous to ours. ELPC verified that we were accurate in our observations and an EIS was necessary. The format of the meeting wasn't exactly an example of democracy at work.
In 2004, Taxpayers Against Airport Growth had another name change to Watershed Watchers. We wanted to emphasize we were not against airport growth, just poorly planned, unsustainable airport growth in wetlands. The airport expansion plan would result in the largest single-site loss of wetlands since the 1972 Clean Water Act.
We gained support from organizations such as the Chicago Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Midwest Environmental Advocates, and the Great Lakes Habitat, Network & Fund, which has also gone through a name change - Freshwater Future. Watershed Watchers is also in Freshwater Future's Advocate Mentor Program as both "mentor" and as "mentee." Watershed Watchers, Inc. is pleased to be one of the 20 groups chosen from 1,800 that are working around the Great Lakes to protect lake basins. Freshwater Future supports these grassroots groups in states surrounding the Great Lakes, not only with financial assistance but with educational materials, technical assistance and with valuable networking opportunities. Midwest Environmental Advocates helped to identify and fund an attorney who has been working with Watershed Watchers since 2003. We are also grateful to Freshwater Future for their generous grants since 2002, which support our advocacy efforts. The word about the West Bend airport expansion has been a topic at conferences and many meetings throughout the Great Lakes region.
In June 2005, a decision was made to conduct a complete, comprehensive Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of the proposed airport expansion's natural resources and the purpose and need, among other issues. The Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was influential in persuading the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) that an EIS was needed to assess the airport expansion project's impact on the surrounding wetlands, woodlands, other natural resources, and quality of life for area citizens. Contrary to what the spin masters say, it's not a done deal. The permitting process will not begin until decisions are reached during the EIS process. The permits have to be approved before federal money is allocated for this project. This website will keep you up-to-date as EIS studies take place.
June 2005 was a eureka moment for Watershed Watchers when we learned that the FAA had made a decision in favor of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). That was a goal our grassroots group had worked for throughout its various stages since 1993. An EIS was necessary for an unsubstantiated plan to destroy 150 acres of wetlands.
It is 2008, the EIS named the cooperating agencies and completed the cooperating agency agreement, guidelines for moving the decision making process forward in a structured fashion.
Thirteen years of loyal support for the environment and for those who could lose their property and for many other reasons, Watershed Watchers is pleased that an EIS is looking for fair and objective results. The EIS has 27 issues, including two major issues, inaccurate operations numbers (one landing or one take-off represents an operation) and wetlands that will have to be carefully examined during the EIS, which started in June 2005. Congratulations to everyone who has put enormous effort into protecting a way of life and the environment and hopefully setting a precedent for protection in the future.
EIS Meeting Minutes