Clean Water Action Council Looks Out for Fox River’s Best Interest

The condition of the Fox River, located from the bay of Green Bay through Appleton and Oshkosh to southeastern Wisconsin, has been a major question on the minds of environmentalists and concerned citizens over the last five decades. The dumping of pollutants in the river by paper companies, as well as non-point polluters like farmers and small businesses, has created an uninhabitable aquatic environment for sea life and an unusable body of water for the average Wisconsinite. However, several groups have arisen over the past two decades to question the tactics of the Environmental Protection Agency and paper companies like Georgia Pacific. One such group, and probably the most prolific in the area, is the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin.

The Clean Water Action Council, established in 1985, is located on Main Street in the heart of downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Council is directed by Rebecca Leighton-Katers, a dedicated environmentalist and advocate for paper companies and the government taking responsibility for their actions. Leighton-Katers is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and has been active in the environmental movement her entire life. Along with Katers is a large group of volunteers and a small but dedicated group of interns every semester, largely from the environmentally friendly University of Wisconsin Green Bay as well as from St. Norbert College. The Council is headed by a locally elected Board of Directors that includes activists, community leaders, and concerned citizens alike in management of the Council’s modest resources. This non-profit receives its funding from private donations, membership fees, and foundational grants.

The main purpose of the Council has been to advocate to the local media and local government the need for a massive cleanup of the Fox River, paid for by the offending companies. While Clean Water does sponsor a few events each year to bring the river’s problems to the attention of the citizenry of Northeast Wisconsin, the volunteers and activists attached to the organization are more active in getting media attention to Environmental Protection Agency public hearings, which have been attended by larger groups as the Council has grown. Editorial pieces and letters to the editor in the Green Bay Press Gazette and the now defunct Green Bay News Chronicle have been responsible for greater community involvement in the Fox River cleanup. As well, Leighton-Katers has been able to involve academics and environmental professionals in promoting cleaner water, air, and soil on the Fox River Watch website (www.foxriverwatch.com) and in using the Fox River as a model for environmental planning in the classrooms of UW-Green Bay.

More information on the Clean Water Action Council, their issue portfolio, and how you can get involved can be found at www.cwac.net. Along with their advocacy for clean water in Northeast Wisconsin, they are also interested in voting and governmental reform and health issues due to environmental damage.

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