Oct 15, 2015

Saratoga Man Blasts Groundwater Extraction Bill Gutting Water Protection

Republican bill would inflict damage onto rural communities and small businesses
Draining water would result in plummeting property values, new houses will not be built. Anybody that can move out, will move out

Before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy Regarding Senate Bill 291

Testimony of Bruce E. Dimick
The Town of Saratoga

October 13, 2015

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak here today.  My name is Bruce Dimick; I am from the Town of Saratoga Wisconsin, and am a member of the Protect Wood County and Its Neighbors organization. I have read SB 291 and was pleased by some aspects of the bill, but troubled by others.  

One of those problem areas is the method used to identify a Sensitive Resource Area (SRA). I was a member of Representative Krug’s Citizen Advisory Groundwater Group when language similar to what is found in SB 291 was presented by Representative Krug with respect to Sensitive Resource Areas. I forcefully argued against this convoluted approach then, and I do so again today. To my knowledge, no one on the committee endorsed this approach, although many of us were in favor of the concept of Sensitive Resource Areas, or carve-outs.

Approval for a Sensitive Resource Area designation would, according to some estimates, take at least 10 years, during which any high-capacity wells that are approved for an area would be allowed to operate. By the time the SRA designation could be achieved much of the damage would already be done. Why work reactively when a proactive approach makes so much more sense both environmentally and economically?

In order to really understand the hydrogeology of an area like the Central Sands, you almost have to live there for a number of years, especially if you are from a more typical clay-loam environment.  We raised our family north of Appleton in the heart of dairy country during the ‘70’s and 80’s. This was typical clay-loam country like the country I grew up on in Northeastern Ohio. When we eventually moved to Saratoga, with its almost total lack of topsoil and all sand it took some getting used to. Without spray irrigation, our area is good for growing pine trees, but not much else.

One way to conceptualize the Central Sands area is think of it as a big tub full of sand filled almost to the top with water. All the water is connected. Streams, lakes and ponds are merely reflecting the local water table. As an example, we have a small dug pond on our property that has no typical inlet or outlet. Yet it is full of clean water and fish year round.  The ground water flows through our pond, slowly but continually, on its way to the Wisconsin River via one or more of the trout streams in the area.

The Central Sands area has been the subject of countless hydro geological studies done by the UWSP as well as the USGS and has already been identified as an environmentally sensitive region. The sensitivity of this aquifer is well documented, including a 2003 designation by the state legislature when groundwater management areas were identified.

The SRA designation should be made by the legislature proactively, now, just as it was in 2003 when groundwater management areas were identified. 

If the entirety of the Central Sands area were designated as an SRA up front, then that would be a great improvement to this Bill.

I would ask the committee to go through a likely scenario for the Town of Saratoga if this bill is passed without modification. Saratoga home owners and small business’s are already being stressed by the threat that the aquifer supplying the residents of the town will be severely damaged. Housing prices have already plummeted, some by as much as 40-50%, and that is if you are lucky enough to sell your home. We are all dependent on private wells. The two wells on my property are 12’ sandpoints and our water tests unbelievably clean.

So if SB 291 becomes law without modification, and the Wysocki Family of Companies sinks their proposed 33 high capacity wells and lowers the water table as expected, many residents will have to construct new deeper wells.  And by the way, deeper does not always mean better. In areas like ours, the best water is frequently found near the top. Sand is a great filter.

Property values will continue to deteriorate and new houses will not be built in our rural residential community. Anybody that can move out, will move out. Perhaps a few hearty souls would prevail and eventually Saratoga and surrounding areas would be designated as an SRA after 7-10 years. The chances at that point of actually shutting down Wysocki’s 33 high capacity wells seems remote at best.

The damage will have been done and a rural community and its small businesses will suffer.

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