I am very happy to report that the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin voted unanimously today to approve payments to the Fund for Lake Michigan for the next two years. This is fabulous news for Lake Michigan and for all of us that depend on the lake for water, recreation and commerce.
The Commission's decision was supported by more than 100 businesses, elected officials, non-profit organizations and community leaders. The Commissioners were particularly impressed by the economic and environmental benefits that our grants provide to ratepayers.
Many thanks for your support throughout this process and best wishes for the holiday season,
P.S. We will have full funding next year and will issue a call for proposals in late January!
We've moved. Please note our new address.
Vicki ElkinExecutive Director, Fund for Lake Michigan
Global Water Center
247 W. Freshwater Way, Suite 537
Milwaukee, WI 53204
The Fund for Lake Michigan has been supporting so many of our projects on the lake and connected water systems since 2011 and is expected to continue to do so through grants of $4,000,000.00 per year through 2035 - WE HOPE. There are concerns that efforts are being subtly made that challenge that hope.
Please read and then consider:
1. Signing on a Friend of the Fund for Lake Michigan, and
2. Consider bringing this to your various organizational boards and having the boards sign on in support.
The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust's Board of Directors unanimously signed on last week at their March 18th meeting and the Friends of Harrington Beach State Park did the same on March 27th.
Please read. Please act.
What is the Fund for Lake Michigan?
The Fund for Lake Michigan ("Fund") was established in 2008 when the Wisconsin Electric Power Company ("WEPCO"), Madison Gas & Electric Company ("MGE"), and Wisconsin Public Power Inc. (collectively, "Owners") resolved certain disputes concerning environmental permitting at the Oak Creek Power Plant in southeastern Wisconsin ("Settlement"). The Settlement establishing the Fund provides for annual payments of four million dollars from 2011 through 2035 to be spent on projects that address, reduce, and mitigate water quality impacts in Lake Michigan.
Why did it make sense to create the Fund?
The Settlement was a sensible alternative for all involved parties because it saved the ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars (which is what it would have cost to construct cooling towers or to continue litigating the environmental issues at Oak Creek) and it provides funding for projects that not only promote economic development but also have a substantial positive effect on water quality in Lake Michigan. On this basis, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin ("PSCW") in 2009 approved all of the annual payments from the Owners to the Fund through 2035. Overall, Fund projects could yield greater water quality improvements than the alternatives considered as part of the Settlement.
An invaluable resource
The Fund has had a tremendous impact on our local economy, raised the quality of life in southeast Wisconsin, and improved our water resources. Since 2011, the Fund has invested over $7 million in local efforts to redevelop urban waterfronts and business parks sustainably, reduce pollution, restore waterways, and improve local beaches and parks.
These investments are already paying off. According to a recent study by UW–Whitewater's Fiscal and Economic Research Center, the Fund's grants have helped to create more than 485 full-time jobs while adding $35 million to the economy and increasing local property values by $45.5 million.
The Fund has become an invaluable resource to communities in the region and a critical supporter of efforts to establish Milwaukee as a global hub for freshwater research, education and economic development.
If the Settlement was final in 2008 and approved by the PSCW in 2009, what is the issue?
Acting on its own initiative, the PSCW reversed course in WEPCO's last rate case and did not allow WEPCO to recover the Settlement payments through its rates. Because of this decision, WEPCO decided to stop making full payments to the Fund. In a rate case to be filed this spring, WEPCO will again ask the PSCW to grant rate recovery for future year Settlement payments (starting in 2015). The Fund and various other parties to the Settlement are planning to intervene in the proceeding to support WEPCO's request and to help ensure that the Fund receives all of its future payments under the Settlement.
Why your support is needed
As you may know, the Fund for Lake Michigan was established in a legal settlement over the expansion of the Oak Creek Power Plant along the shores of Lake Michigan. The settlement provides for payments of $4 million a year from 2011–2035 for projects that improve the health of Lake Michigan.
This settlement was an innovative solution that saved ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars that would have been spent constructing cooling towers or continuing to litigate the environmental issues at Oak Creek. On this basis, the PSC in 2009 approved all annual payments to the Fund through 2035. Unfortunately, the PSC reversed course during We Energies' last rate case, putting the future of the Fund in jeopardy.
Foley & Lardner, LLP, has agreed to represent the Friends of the Fund in the next rate case before the PSC, which will be filed later this year. We will ask the PSC to abide by its 2009 decision and approve the continuation of payments to the Fund for Lake Michigan.
In order to ensure a favorable decision by the PSC, the Friends of the Fund want the PSC to hear testimony on the value of the Fund to ratepayers, area businesses, and the local economy. Such testimony would guarantee that critical information about the Fund, such as the economic impact of the Fund's investments to date and the Fund's support of efforts to position Milwaukee as an international hub for freshwater businesses, would be included in the official record and be part of the PSC's deliberations.
What does it mean to be a "Friend of the Fund"?
The Fund is asking the Fund's past and prospective grantees, friends in the business community, elected officials whose communities have benefitted from the Fund's investments, consultants and contractors who have helped to implement grant-funded projects to sign on as one of many Friends of the Fund. In doing so, you will help us demonstrate that there is broad support for the Fund from across the region.
To be clear, we are not asking for a financial commitment on your part. We would simply like to identify you or your organization on a list of Fund supporters to be submitted to the PSC.
We may ask a few Friends to provide additional details on projects supported by the Fund or to provide letters of support to be submitted to the PSC as part of the rate case. We would also welcome your comments on any position papers or substantive filings in which your name is listed as a Friend of the Fund.
Recent Friends of the Fund
30th Street Corridor Group, Atlas Management LLC, Beerline B Apartments, CenterPoint Yacht Services LLC, Cognitive Edge Consulting, Continuum Architect and Planners, Dominion Properties, Ducks Unlimited Inc., Eco-Resources Consulting, Friends of Harrington Beach State Park, General Capital Group, Hanging Gardens, LLC, Johnson Controls, Inc., Kenosha County Division of Parks, Land Conservation Partnership of Ozaukee County, LISC- Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture, Ozaukee Treasures Network, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, PaveDrain LLC, Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee, Reed Street Yards, Rexnord Corporation, Riveredge Nature Center, Rotary Club of Milwaukee, Sloan Valve, Spancrete, STEMhero, Stonehouse Waterhouse Technologies, Strategic Frontiers LLC, Vanderwalle and Associates, Vegetal I.D., Water Council, Zurn Engineered Water Solutions, Mark Brickman, owner, Brickman Consulting, Tracey Carson, VP of Marketing for Zizzo Group, David Garmen, Dean of UWM School of Freshwater Sciences, Neal Palmer, Village President, Village of Elm Grove, Alan Paul Price, Dean and CEO, UW-Washington County, George Stone, Chair, Sustainability Summit, MATC, Sammis White, Interim Dean, UWM School of Continuing Education
How do I become a Friend of the Fund?
I would like to become a Friend of the Fund for Lake Michigan
We hope that you will join the Water Council, Johnson Controls, the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, Ducks Unlimited, General Capital Group, the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, the Rexnord Corporation, Zurn, Spancrete the Riveredge Nature Center, Kenosha County Parks, CenterPointe Yacht Services, Sloan Valve and dozens of other businesses, organizations and community leaders in becoming a Friend of the Fund. A partial list of the Friends of the Fund is included below.
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