Kidney Island --- (Renard Isle)

Eleven years ago, Brown County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the DNR officially proposed to more than triple this 55 acre dump in the Bay --- to 181 acres. It would hold several years worth of contaminated sediments dredged from the Green Bay Harbor shipping channel. Our main concerns:

Toxic Dump in the Water --- This island will hold up to 42,000 pounds of PCBs --- plus large amounts of furans, dioxins, mercury, lead, pentachlorophenol, and hundreds of other persistent toxic chemicals which cause serious health concerns for fish, wildlife and humans. Many of the chemicals, like mercury and lead, will never break down.

Guaranteed to Fall Apart --- This island is not built to last. It has a 50 year design life and is built to withstand only 20-year storms. It is exposed to the full strength of Northeast storms, combined with freezing and thawing, ice shoves and constant wave erosion. It will require constant repairs and upkeep for thousands of years into the future --- to prevent spilling the toxic chemicals into the Great Lakes system. This spillage could undue years of expensive clean-up work. The island is a poor, temporary solution to a permanent problem.

Blocks Circulation Patterns --- The island was placed at a pivotal point, where the Fox River flows into the bay and currents turn to follow the East Shore. Historically, this current kept the East Shore flushed and clean of sediment --- leaving sandy or rocky beaches. Now the island blocks this current, creating stagnant pockets at Bay Beach Park where large toxic mud flats are forming offshore. Tripling the island will create even greater stagnation and more extensive mudflats along the East Shore. This ruins our hopes of re-establishing Bay Beach as a public swimming beach. By deflecting concentrated Fox River pollution to the west, the island also threatens fish spawning areas in mid-Bay and along the West Shore. Stagnation may cause oxygen deficiency--- leading to fish kills.

Toxic Trap for Wildlife --- During the many years it takes to fill the island, the pond and mudflats within the confining walls will attract wildlife, particularly birds, to nest and feed on trapped fish and insects. Because the dredging will stir up the sediments, these trapped fish and insects will be more contaminated than wildlife outside the walls. The existing island has attracted many beach-nesting birds --- the expansion will make this problem worse.

Local Taxpayers Liable for High Costs --- Once the island is complete, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will turn it over to Brown County, leaving Brown County property tax payers covering all future maintenance costs. This is an enormous liability, stretching centuries into the future.

Corporate Welfare at Taxpayer Expense --- Most of the expenses arising from this sediment management are paid for by taxpayers. Little or nothing is contributed by the polluters who created this toxic contamination problem. It's ironic that Fort Howard Corporation, which is one of the main beneficiaries of this port, is also one of the main polluters of the sediments. Such polluters should be held accountable for these costs.

Harbor's Future Questionable --- The Port of Green Bay is small and serves relatively few businesses when compared to major ports like Duluth/Superior or Milwaukee. The Bay is not a natural Great Lakes port. 17 miles of channel must be dredged regularly to bring in big ships, and even then, the channel is authorized only to 24 feet, not the standard depth of 27 feet. This means many ships arrive partly loaded to create a shallow draft, affecting the economics of shipping at this harbor. Furthermore, the Green Bay Harbor is a detour off the main shipping lines, because ships must navigate past Door County peninsula. Given the high cost of channel maintenance and the low returns, the long term future of the Port is bleak. Many businesses now served by the Port could operate well with truck and rail transport. Many already do. Does continued channel dredging make economic or environmental sense? No cost-benefit analysis has ever been performed, yet with millions of taxdollars at stake, such a study is needed.

Valuable Resource at Stake --- The Great Lakes contain 20% of the world's fresh surface water. It is a priceless source of drinking water, and domestic and industrial supply water. The fisheries of Green Bay alone have an estimated value of approximately $50 million annually. The recreation and tourism industries employ thousands of residents. The Bay and Lake Michigan are critically important wildlife areas. This resource deserves careful long-term stewardship for continued use by future generations.

Possible Answers:

  1. Build a secure, temporary, monitored, retrievable storage area for these sediments, on dry land.
  2. Pursue an aggressive research program to test safe detoxification technologies.
  3. Treat the sediments, once a safe detoxification technology is proven.
  4. Require those who caused the contamination to pay all expenses. Don't put the burden on taxpayers.
  5. Remove the existing island and treat the contents just as the new dredgings are treated.
  6. If a cost-benefit analysis proves that the port is not economically justifiable, close the Port, allow the channel to fill in, and concentrate clean-up efforts on the worst toxic hotspots in the Fox River and Bay. It doesn't make sense to mix cleaner sediments with highly contaminated hotspot sediments.

This factsheet prepared by Clean Water Action Council of N.E. Wis., 2220 Deckner Avenue, Green Bay, WI 54302 --- July 7, 1995