Mar 24, 2017

Wisconsin Republicans Block Hearing, Debate on Bill That Would Deplete Ground and Surface Waters

It's called industrial agricultural irrigation, but it's
the pumping of millions of gallons of water that
is combined with millions of tons of cow manure
and vectored onto Wisconsin communities.
Whole communities face economic and
social degradation
as Wisconsin Republicans now
disregard swaths of the population. In fact,
Republicans are actively pursuing policy that will
effect consequences devastating to entire regions.
Data: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Credit: Kate Prengaman/
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
Madison, Wisconsin — No need for a public hearing, no cause for a debate, just pass the death by a 1,000 straws bill that will allow virtually unfettered access and control of Wisconsin aquifers by the Big Ag industrial interests who also control Wisconsin's legislative Republicans.

"State Senate Republicans plan to vote next week without a public committee meeting or debate on a controversial bill that would further loosen regulation of high-capacity wells that are linked to low water levels in lakes and streams," reports Steven Verburg in the Wisconsin State Journal.

The bill is Wisconsin Senate Bill 76, (Assembly Bill 105), and has drawn wide opposition in numerous communities, including small farmers, small businesses, recreation and tourism activists and clean water activists facing a hostile Republicans state government.

The news of the Republicans' new closed-to-public stance follows by some two weeks the release of a "critical state audit that found a drop in enforcement activity and other problems in the wastewater program for factories, municipalities and large farms," as reported by Lee Bergquist in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

One public hearing last week drew a wide attendance. Republicans look to discourage citizen participation to protect public waters.

"Last week, a nine-hour public hearing drew more than 60 speakers for and against the proposal to eliminate environmental impact reviews of wells when they are replaced, repaired or sold. Those are the only times the state evaluates how an existing well pumping millions of gallons from the aquifer is affecting other water users," notes Verburg.

In Wisconsin, Republicans are controlled by special interests to a degree that many communities' leaders— municipalities where populations are mobilized against Big Ag—acknowledge on background delaying Republicans will allow legal challenges to proceed with increased public awareness (Saratoga for example). Put another way, only by stopping hostile Republican government can communities protect themselves.

From the Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network (SRWN) group:

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.  Those who travel to Wisconsin will be forced to 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 by our current legislature.  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 transfer provision in SB76/AB105 is of greatest concern and encourages elected officials to purposefully and directly ignore the state’s Public Trust Doctrine, which states the waters of Wisconsin belong to all of us. Transferring water rights with the sale of a property is in direct conflict with that doctrine outlined within our state’s Constitution. Transfer wording should be deleted entirely from this bill.

As Wisconsin residents, we depend and trust our elected officials to enact legislation that will ensure our surface and groundwater will be here for our children and grandchildren to use and enjoy.  Moreover, we have property rights and hold our representatives to the expectation that they will protect our interests over big industry donors who are attempting to buy preferential legislation.

Numerous scientific studies predicted reduced surface and groundwater due to overpumping from high capacity wells. Statewide, lakes, streams and wells are drying up and we are demanding legislative action to protect our water NOW. Do not vote to pass legislation that will make Wisconsin water issues worse and directly impact our tourism and recreational industry. SB76/AB105 will not stop or prevent further damage to the families of Wisconsin… it ensures the damage will continue.

Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network (SRWN) is a statewide coalition of thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations dedicated to preserving the environment while maintaining the health and economic vitality of rural communities. We are concerned about Wisconsin’s water resources and support sustainable water use. We cannot support legislation that gives Wisconsin’s water to the highest bidder at the detriment of the citizens.

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