Tuesday, May 2, 2006
The days of frenzied "waterfront development" being limited to places like Florida, California, and Cape Cod are over. Exurbanization, online workers, and an army of wealthy retirees are now rushing to build in locations such as the rural Great Lakes waterfront. A new report predicts that nearly all private property on Wisconsin's lakeshores will be built up by 2015. The best time for government's buying land was when prices were relatively low; lawmakers in Wisconsin and elsewhere probably wish they had snatched up a lot of land for parks and preserves 10 years ago; now it's too late.
The new residents will bring pollution with them, especially in the form of phosphorus and other nutrients to make their American-standard lawns grow green. Wisconsin thus joins other states in struggling to regulate shoreline development. A typical proposal is to limit the proximity of construction to the beach -- Mr. Lucas, where are you? Other proposals include giving incentives to encourage the maintenance of natural -- meaning thick and diverse -- vegetation near the shoreline, instead of fertilized lawns. Now is the time for governments to impose strict and unbending regulations on waterfront pollution -- it will too late 10 years from now. Yes, developers and homeowners will complain that regulations decrease the value of property. Too bad. There is no right to pollute the public waters; laws should be tight and demanding in keeping nutrients off lawns and out of the waters. Don't like it? Don't live next to the water, or don't use pollutants on your lawns.