Walker donor wants OK to anchor floating bog

A major political donor to Gov. Scott Walker wants state approval to keep a 12-acre floating bog away from his property in northern Wisconsin, according to a published report.

Richard E. Uihlein, CEO of Pleasant Prairie-based Uline Corp., is proposing moving the bog north and fastening it to the lake bed. The plan calls for crews to use barges, a crane and a pile driver to pound large posts through the bog and anchor it to the lake bed, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ( ) reported.

The scale of the project is outlined in an Aug. 17 memo to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Buffeted by winds, the bog has blocked lake access at Kavanaugh Bay on the Chippewa Flowage on Uihlein's property for much of the last two summers. This summer, he hired a tugboat that normally operates on the Mississippi River to push it away, but the bog returned.

The proposal is raising objections on a lake long known for big muskies and rugged, wooded shorelines.

"This is the most preposterous idea that I have ever heard," said Brett McConnell, an environmental specialist in the conservation department of the Lac Courte Oreilles band of Lake Superior Chippewa. "I would hope that every single person affiliated with the flowage would be opposed to this."

Uihlein's project would require approval from the DNR; Xcel Energy Inc., a utility company that owns the lake bed; and perhaps the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In his memo to the DNR, Eric Hagman, a representative of Uihlein, said crews would use "multiple high horsepower boats to push the bog away from the Uihlein property," then move it from the southern end of Kavanaugh Bay to the northern end next to land managed by the DNR.

Eight barges would be tied together where a pile hammer and a crane would be used to pound 50 large columns — 4 feet in diameter — through the bog and into the bottom of the lake to keep the tangle of roots, sphagnum moss and other greenery in place.

It's expected that the pilings would rise "no more than 15 feet above the surface of the bog to minimize any visual impacts while still allowing them to do their job," according to the memo.

DNR spokesman Jim Dick told the newspaper it was premature for the agency to comment on the project at this stage. But Dick said in an email that the agency would handle the case "the same way regardless of who was involved."

Tribal lands are located on a portion of the 15,300-acre flowage. The tribe signed an agreement in 2000 for a joint management of the flowage with the DNR and U.S. Forest Service.

The 56-page agreement says the tribe and the agencies "may control the location and size of floating bogs" if there are "significant navigational obstructions. Since they are important historically to the region, all efforts will be made not to move the bogs."

"The whole idea with people who love the flowage is the semi-wilderness quality," said Doug Kurtzweil, a board member of the Chippewa Flowage Property Owners Association and chairman of the group for 12 years until earlier this year. "Anytime you start manipulating it — and maybe it's a balancing act — but there is a line you sure don't want to cross that will turn it into Lake Geneva or Wisconsin Dells."

Richard Uihlein and his wife, Elizabeth, founded their company in 1980. Uline distributes shipping, packaging and industrial supplies, and now employs more than 4,500 people. The Uihleins have donated $3 million to Walker in recent years.

"I have never been asked to contact the DNR or anyone else on this matter," lobbyist Bill Broydrick, a spokesman for the Uihleins, said in an email.

Broydrick added: "Any property owner on the Chippewa Flowage would object to its access being cut off by a large floating bog. The Uihleins wish to be treated in the same way that any other property owner would be treated. In that spirit there has been open and transparent communication with the local working level at the DNR and Xcel, which will continue."

The bog proposal is the second of two property issues involving the Uihlein family and the DNR in recent months. The other involves Elizabeth Uihlein's proposed purchase of 1.75 acres along the Rest Lake shoreline in the town of Manitowish Waters in northern Wisconsin. On Wednesday, faced with criticism about the proposed sale, the Natural Resources Board put off a decision. The deal would give Elizabeth Uihlein lakefront access to a condominium complex she owns.


Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

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