Friends of the Central Sands: Wisconsin Legislature poised to take away citizen’s rights to protect our water!

Media Contact: Bob Clarke, 608-296-1443 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 29, 2013

COLOMA – In a very disturbing move, the Joint Finance Committee last Wednesday approved a measure (Motion #375) specifically aimed at the public’s rights to protect the environment from high-capacity well pumping. This was done without advance notice and well into the evening. The motion states:

Move to specify that a person may not challenge an application for, or a permit for, a high capacity well based on the lack of consideration of the cumulative environmental impacts of the proposed high capacity well together with existing wells when approving the high capacity well permit. This provision would apply to applications for high capacity well permits and high capacity well permits in effect before, on, or after, the effective date of the bill, and for applications and permits for which final administrative or judicial review has not been completed on the effective date of the bill.

“This is a stealth motion being inserted into the budget on a critical environmental issue,“ said Bill Vance of Friends of the Central Sands (FOCS). “Our waters are being depleted before our eyes and nothing is being done to prevent this from continuing. And now the Legislature would make it even more difficult for concerned citizens to act.” Just last month, the Little Plover River in Portage County was named number 4 on the 2013 list of the 10 most endangered rivers in the United States by American Rivers. Other bodies of water such as Pickerel Lake and Lake Huron are drying up.

The Note to the motion specifically mentions the issues that “…have been raised in legal proceedings regarding the extent to which DNR must consider, may consider, or may not consider, the environmental impacts of existing wells when making a decision on whether or not to approve a permit for a proposed high capacity well related to both statutory requirements and Article 9, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution (known as the public trust doctrine). For example, a recent DNR decision to approve a high capacity well permit for a confined animal feeding operation is currently the subject of a contested case hearing, relating to whether DNR should have considered cumulative environmental impacts when it issued the permit.”

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last week, the joint finance motion is brought at the same time a legal case involving the Richfield Dairy in Adams County is pending. Friends of the Central Sands and others have challenged high-capacity well approvals issued to the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation).

Said Bob Clarke of Friends of the Central Sands, “We brought this case so that the permitting of high capacity wells in the state is done in a prudent manner taking into account wells that already exist and are drawing down water in the same general location. Although they agree that there is harm when considering the cumulative impacts, the DNR refuses to look at these and instead only looks at the impact of one well at a time. This is ridiculous.”

“We find it very interesting that this motion is coming up now,” said Bill Vance. “Where did this come from, and why was it pushed through in one day in the joint finance committee? Motions like these are why policy has no place in the budget.”

“We will continue to fight for waters of the state,” said Clarke. “This is our heritage.”