Kohler stance on Wilson golf course questioned by FBRF

To the Editor,

At the last Town Wilson board meeting, (March 21, 2016) the Kohler Company, insisting it be involved in the choice of environmental consultants, reneged on reimbursing the town of Wilson for the cost of an environmental consulting firm.

The town is seeking professional assistance in determining the immediate and long term impacts of Kohler’s proposed golf course on the town’s residents and environment.

Kohler Attorney Steve Westphal, stressing that Kohler cares about the town, stated that Hey and Associates chosen by the town was not a good consulting firm.

We, The Friends of the Black River Forest, have learned that the firm is actually one of the finest and highly consulted firms in the industry.

Jim Richerson, Kohler general manager and director of golf, in a letter to the town chairman, emphasized the town needed to stay out of areas evaluated by the DNR and that fairness was necessary. So, the company will only reimburse the town IF Wilson plays by Kohler’s rules. Kohler reimbursed $13,000, out of an agreed $20,000, with an understanding the town could ask for further reimbursement for expenses.

This happened before a top environmental firm and hydrogeologist were hired by Wilson to protect its resources. We contend that a major problem for our residents is the quality of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) created for Kohler by the Stantec Corporation. It was presented to the DNR with missing information and many inaccuracies. It also skirted issues of impacts and used the wrong test to determine well draw downs for our town residents.

As a grassroots group, the Friends of the Black River Forest hired Quentin J. Carpenter, Ph.D., a highly accomplished expert in impact report from UW-Madison, to evaluate Kohler’s information. Dr. Carpenter stated in his report:

“The process works best when there is diligent investigatory work and truthful interpretation of the results of that work. Were I to grade this EIR, I would give it a B+ for investigation (though much of the source material is not provided) and a D- for communication of the results truthfully. Missing from the investigation was information on the geologic and landscape setting in terms of recent glacial and post-glacial events which created this unusual area. In addition, some of the hydrogeology information was rather vague (what aquifer will the irrigation water come from?). Missing from the communication aspect of the report was any sense of responsibility to reveal the magnitude and permanence of the alterations proposed, work which the DNR must now perform in its EIS. The reality is that the proposed project will drastically and permanently alter the landscape and ecology of this large remnant of minimally-disturbed lakeshore habitat, and no feasible amount of avoiding, minimizing, IPMing or BMP’s will change that.”

FBRF attorney, Christa Westerberg, has addressed the DNR’s fast-tracking their Economic Impact Study (EIS) with inaccurate information and no permit applications from the company. We are concerned about this irregularity in the process, too.

Most residents don’t want Kohler’s golf course nor the short- and long-term environmental consequences that come with it.

An FBRF spokesperson, Mary Faydash, reacted to the town having to pay for Kohler to come into the town of Wilson and accept the company’s terms.

Said Faydash, “We are very aware of the Kohler Company’s influence within the DNR and with Secretary Stepp as is anyone who has been following the politicization of the DNR. We have emails to show this bias. Dr. Carpenter’s review is solid and verifiable by any standards. If the Kohler Company really wants what is best for our residents what is it afraid of? A company which touts saving water and environmental stewardship should not need to control the process. We are asking Kohler to allow the town of Wilson to direct its own future. We want the Kohler Company to play by the same rules those people they impact have to abide by and honor its agreements.”

Claudia Bricks

Friends of Black Earth Forest

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