Mar 26, 2017

Central Wisconsin Communities Flash Red over Bill to Deplete Waters

Paradise imperiled - Lake Camelot in central Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin — Following the Republican effort to pass by stealth the unpopular "death by a 1,000 straws", anti-water bill, central Wisconsin citizens' groups and communities are mobilized.

The bill is Wisconsin Senate Bill 76, (Assembly Bill 105), and has drawn opposition from communities, small farmers, businesses, recreation and tourism activists, property rights activists and a coalition of citizens who have worked to stop the operation of a proposed  industrialized factory farm or CAFO, (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) in central Wisconsin.

Among the effects on water policy in the bill are Constitutionally dubious changes to environmental laws that plead regulatory procedures to ignore Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine, which protects public access to waters.

The bill is expected to be acted upon on March 28 between 10 am and 1 pm in the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform. [Linked here is the Wisconsin legislative committees' calendar.]
Below is a press release from Concerned Rome Citizens, (Adams County (Wisconsin)), and a communication from Protect Wood County and Its Neighbors, (Wood County Wisconsin).

For Immediate Release
Press Release
Contact: Don Ystad            
Phone: 262-894-9423          

Proposed SB76/AB105 strikes a blow to state tourism and property rights

Concerned Rome Citizens opposes SB 76, (AB 105), as written.  Passage of this bill in current form will result in continuing PERMANENT damage to our state’s waters – lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, and residential water wells.  It may provide assurances to a select group of large growers and agricultural land owners, but it does not solve any problems for our state groundwater and surface water issues and only allows our current problems to continue and in some cases, expands those problems.

Further, the scheduling of a paper ballot vote on March 28th by the Senate’s Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform ignores the 9 hours of testimony provided at the initial public hearing a few weeks ago and prevents consideration of amendments suggested by legislators and attendees.  In short, it’s an attempt to fast track this bill for influential donors.

Wisconsin is a mecca for recreation and tourism. Allowing the passage of SB76/AB105 would land a direct blow to the thriving tourism industry upon which many of our rural communities depend.  Many vacationers who would otherwise travel to Wisconsin will find alternate vacation destinations to boat, fish, and recreate as lake levels continue to be drawn down.

SB76/AB105 will guarantee the continued drawdown of many lakes, trout streams, and residential wells if passed because it does nothing to remedy the current issues with lakes and streams already drawn down by excess pumping, or to prevent damage to lakes and streams in the future.  Unlimited permits are unprecedented in Wisconsin and pose a serious and immediate danger to our waterways and our residents.  Periodic review of high capacity well permits is essential to protect our waters. 

The following amendments should be considered and acted upon on behalf of Wisconsin constituents and citizens.

Wisconsin has a varying geology and we need an amendment that recognizes such where permitting and regulating high capacity wells is concerned

  • Identify the Wisconsin areas like Central Sands that are currently impacted, or subject to impact because of their geologic makeup. Make periodic review mandatory for all high capacity wells located in these areas and eliminate the need to do so where the science and history show it’s not necessary. Periodic review of a high capacity well in areas of Wisconsin currently demonstrating no significant impact from over-pumping is unnecessary when a well requires maintenance or reconstruction.

While automatic transfer of well permits when a property is sold may be important to high capacity well owners, maintaining lake and stream levels is equally important to citizens and the communities, counties and state where they live.

  • An amendment is needed to provide permit review before sales transfer in areas of our state where the science or history show impacts from over-pumping. This is especially crucial with transfer of land from property owner to another entity which plans to pump in excess of previous records of well pumping or is in a region where high capacity wells are already demonstrating impacts.  Conversely, transfer of property (ownership) between family members with the same purpose and estimated pumping rates of the property’s high capacity well, when in an area that is not identified as an area of concern due to over-pumping, does not require a periodic review.

Science has shown us that trying to refill a lake with a new high capacity well when that lake has been impacted by over-pumping of existing high capacity wells simply does not work.  By now we’ve all learned that surface water and groundwater are directly connected.

  • That provision should be stricken from the bill.

Citizens are at a civil litigation disadvantage once permits are awarded to large organizations.  Wording within this bill denying citizens right to request a contested case hearing is contradictory to the democratic process.

  • Citizens should have the right to contest a permit decision before a permit holder is allowed to operate, based on studies or evidence that shows the potential risks.

And finally, the Sensitive Resource Study Area outlined in the Central Sands region requires further consideration in that it does not incorporate the already highly impacted areas, instead targeting three random low impact areas. Highest impact areas must be included in the study

  •     Because of the unique geological conditions involved, study and groundwater modeling should incorporate the entire Central Sands region and not limited areas
  •     Temporary suspension of new high capacity wells should be implemented in the Central Sands region already showing the highest amount of impact due to over-pumping of high capacity wells.  This temporary suspension should remain in place until completion of the new study AND corrective actions are put in place legislatively to address the critical area and over-pumping occurring

Numerous scientific studies and models have confirmed the effects of over-pumping on ground and surface water.  However, agriculture interests continue to lobby for an advantage with the public’s water.  Visitors aren’t coming to Wisconsin because of our agriculture industry. They come and spend $20,000,000,000 here annually because we have a lakes environment second to none.  As Wisconsin residents, we trust our elected officials to enact legislation that will support the needs of agriculture and tourism, as well as property values and lifestyle for all residents for generations to come.  We expect changes in these bills that represent the needs of all Wisconsin property owners.

Concerned Rome Citizens values the lakes in the Rome area that contribute in a large way to the $300,000,000 annual tourism revenue in Adams County.  The billion dollars in valuation of lake properties in Adams County represent a major source of revenue to commerce, schools and community services. 

These lakes communities around our state must be protected.
From Protect Wood County and Its Neighbors

Spring is fast approaching which means all eyes and ears need to be open as the potential for manure dumping by the Wysocki's is high.

We have information that the Central Sands Dairy manure lagoon is full to the top.  The lagoon will need to be pumped soon and the manure will have to go somewhere, so keep your eyes open and report anything you see out of the ordinary.

SB76 / AB105 - Relating to: replacement, reconstruction, and transfer of an approved high capacity well, recommendation of special groundwater measures by the Department of Natural Resources, and metering requirements and grants for certain high capacity wells.

After 9 hours of testimony by Wisconsin citizens on March 15th the Senate Chairperson (Senator Nass) later instructed the Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform to vote on SB76 by paper ballot on Tuesday March 28th between the hours of 10AM and 1PM.

The paper ballot decision eliminates discussion of citizen testimony heard, debate of technical pieces of the bill, and does not allow for amendment to be introduced on the bill by committee members.  It also blocks the public from viewing and observing the committee communications.

Now more than ever we need citizens from all over Wisconsin hitting our elected officials with personal emails and phone calls voicing their concerns about this bill and the committees plan to proceed with a paper ballot vote.  Linked below are our Legislators email addresses in an easy copy and paste format.  Be sure to take a few minutes and do your part today.

2017 Elected Wisconsin Officials

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