« WSAU Opinion Blog

OPINION - Check first, then re-fill

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) This is not a big story, but it illustrates the power (and fear) of the federal government. It’s also a lesson in common sense – or lack thereof.

The McDill Pond dam was in danger of failing. The pond was drained and expensive repairs were made. The work is finished now, and three years later it’s time to re-fill the pond.

But the process was halted – albeit briefly – because of nesting water foul. Apparently birds began making their nests on the lakebed, and now there was a question about whether re-filling the pond was OK. Some birds are protected species. The federal government manages migratory birds. In some cases, their habitats can’t be destroyed.

A call had to be made to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Now – imagine the issue. Can this land, that was once a lake, which was drained by humans, be refilled because some birds started nesting there during the time it wasn’t a lake? The obvious answer is to re-fill the lake. But the feds, with the record of mismanaging wild horses, protecting sloths and snails, allowing this tree to be chopped down-but not this one, are an unpredictable bunch. Woe to the tiny village or town that gets this wrong. What if there was an appeal? Or if the issue had to be studied? Imagine a bird-loving resident filing a complaint, or a lawsuit. Due-diligence was done. Why are birds preferred over fish?  In the end, the lake can be re-filled. That was common sense. But when dealing with our sometimes non-sensical federal government, there was a moment of pause before putting something back the way it was.

Chris Conley