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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

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October 2003

Sharing a vision for the Great Lakes

An anniversary and reason to celebrate.

Natasha Kassulke


You've benefited from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program (WCMP) if you've visited a maritime museum, launched a boat, strolled a renovated waterfront or gone birding along the Great Lakes shores.

"We put a lot of funding into education, bricks and mortar projects, providing public access and preserving fragile coastal properties," says Mike Friis, public access and pollution control coordinator for WCMP.

The Wisconsin Coastal Management Program just marked its 25th anniversary of meeting Great Lakes challenges and successes. Established in 1978 under the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act, the program is charged to preserve, protect and manage coastal resources for this and future generations.

Today, WCMP is part of the Wisconsin Department of Administration and advised by a Wisconsin Coastal Management Council whose 15 members represent state agencies, the state legislature, local government, tribes, the UW system and the public. WCMP annually awards cost-shared grants for a variety of projects. Last year, $1.6 million was available; in 2001, $5.7 million was shared to revitalize Wisconsin coastal communities.

Al Shea, former director of DNR's Bureau of Watershed Management, was among the first WCMP staff. He helped develop a dredging material disposal plan for Wisconsin's six largest Great Lakes ports, develop a 15-county inventory of natural areas and set a $1.2 million strategy for setting aside scientific and natural areas along Wisconsin's coasts. WCMP's work resulted in The Nature Conservancy purchasing wetlands to create the Mink River Estuarine Sanctuary in Door County. Shea led beach nourishment disposal projects at Kewaunee and Wisconsin Point on Lake Superior – the first of their kind in Wisconsin.

"The program helped develop waterfronts, park, and marinas. WCMP projects always had a natural resource flavor and a focus on access and recreation," Shea recalls. "And we had a lot of fun."

"I worked with Al Miller, the first WCMP director and aimed to help people see Great Lakes issues that were then invisible to them," explains Steve Born, now on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin and co-chair of the Waters of Wisconsin Initiative. "We became a pilot and model for connecting coastal management programs, especially those involving federal partners like the U.S. Forest Service and Army Corps of Engineers."

"For the amount of money invested, the returns have been pretty good," Born says. Miller, who directed WCMP the program until 1984, says proved to be an example of good government. The council was a mix of representatives from agencies and local government overseen by a citizen advisory committee.

Early issues included putting the program together and coming up with a coastal management plan. Wisconsin had shoreland zoning laws and erosion controls, but lacked a way to coordinate those programs consistently along the coasts.

WCMP also provided background work to form a Great Lakes Charter under which Great Lakes states and provinces collectively work to conserve water levels and flows on the Great Lakes and tributaries, and on environmental and shoreland development within the region. "We were the first state to have the laws and form the networks to make it work," Miller says.

Natasha Kassulke is Associate Editor of Wisconsin Natural Resources.

Produced by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Funded by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act, Grant #NA17022357.