Jun 10, 2016

Wisconsin DNR Declares Effects of Massive Water Draws No Longer Relevant

Corruption and Politics from Wisconsin Republicans

Updated - In a historic departure for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Department declared this week the DNR permits for wells drawing massive amounts of water no longer have to consider the effects the wells have on the environment, (Bergquist, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).

"In a major victory for business interests and large-scale agriculture, the state Department of Natural Resources said Friday that it will no longer take into account the cumulative effects of high-capacity on streams, rivers and lakes when reviewing applications for new wells."

The new policy comes one month after Attorney General Brad Schimel, a Republican, issued a legal opinion that said the DNR lacked authority to put certain conditions on farmers and others who want to construct large wells — even if the wells could harm state waters," writes Bergquist.

The Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel runs a Republican political operation in the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and is often called to issue advisory opinions to politically assist legislative Republican and state agencies in disregarding the Wisconsin Public Trust Doctrine protecting Wisconsin's waters, and other Republican pursuits.

The change in doctrine is hidden on the DNR site on a FAQ page, and not on the News page or Press Release page.

"This decision leaves as much as 90 percent of our lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands unprotected from the proven impacts of over-pumping from high-capacity wells," says Elizabeth Wheeler, senior staff attorney for Clean Wisconsin. "This is despite the fact that DNR heard from over 500 people asking the agency to reject the AG’s opinion and continue to use sound natural resources science in reviewing these wells. Taking this action without any proactive notice to the public is especially egregious because so many people have been watching."

Clean water advocates consider Wisconisn to be in crisis mode as health and environmental toxins vectored into Wisconsin's waters often exceeds safe levels. Scott Walker has openly and furtively pursued less protection against polluters, and the abandonment of our state Constitution's Public Trust Doctrine.

Writes the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel following Schimel's political opinion in May.

State Attorney General Brad Schimel's opinion limiting the authority of the Department of Natural Resources to regulate high-capacity wells goes too far and comes too soon. While the opinion is a big win for agriculture and business interests, it could have serious damaging effects on the state's waterways, and seems to place politics above science.

That science is beginning to show the connection between the groundwater into which high-capacity wells tap for irrigation and other uses and the state's rivers and streams. But just as the information is starting to come in, Schimel says the DNR has no authority to put conditions on well applications that would take into account their cumulative effects on streams, rivers and lakes in the surrounding area.

Agriculture and business interests have charged that the DNR has incorrectly interpreted its authority by clamping on restrictions — and, in some cases, denying — applications for wells. We understand their impatience and frustration, but draining groundwater sources may have far-reaching consequences that could leave everyone high and dry, including those agriculture and business interests.

The change in policy is expected to be litigated.

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