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Dear Friends...And yet again!  (Cowles Bill)

Yet another bad bill, SB291, has been released.  This bill is sponsored by Sen. Rob Cowles, co-sponsored by Sen. Luther Olsen, among others.  

There is much to be concerned about with this bill.  For example, it:

  • ​Virtually eliminates consideration of cumulative impacts when a new high-capacity well is permitted
  • Narrows the waters that can be protected to primarily navigable waters, and not wetlands and other waters of the state
  • Limits the DNR's authority to place conditions on high-capacity wells, including basic monitoring
  • Grandfathers existing wells and allows well approvals to be transferred

Some aspects of the bill could offer building block for a more sustainable approach to groundwater, however, and we are hopeful it could be amended to expand on these themes.  For example, it:

  • ​Creates "sensitive resource areas” to areas which DNR could study for more region-wide groundwater shortage problems, and could use this designation as the basis for further well permitting decisions.  
  • Requires DNR to look at the needs of aquatic resources in sensitive resource areas, such as what water levels are necessary to sustain trout.

For now, the bill limits a "sensitive resource area" study to four lakes in Waushara County, but even then, it will take years for this designation to be completed, and give the legislature authority to reject it.  It will be even harder for other areas to get designated, if at all.  

We at Friends of the Central Sands cannot support this bill as written.

If the DNR doesn’t have authority to deal with wells that are pumping too much water, there will be more lawsuits like this against municipalities, farmers, and industries with high-capacity wells.


Let’s do all we can to see that this bill doesn’t see the light of day!  Contact your representative today.  You can find your representatives here:

We have a Victory!

Judge Rules DNR Must Consider Cumulative Impacts in Issuing High-Capacity Well Permits

But the DNR is playing is a game...

The DNR is poised to issue a modified WPDES permit (waste spreading) to the Richfield CAFO without taking into consideration the Judge’s comments in our successful appeal.  You may recall that Judge Boldt’s decision in the WPDES portion of our appeal discussed our request for an Animal Unit cap, i.e. a cap on the number of animal units (cows) Richfield Dairy can put on its property.  This effectively limits the waste the facility can generate.  Judge Boldt agreed a cap was appropriate, and further said: “The Department should establish a sustainable cap on animal units in conjunction with the revised permit reducing the maximum annual pumping in the companion high-capacity well cases.”   Richfield Dairy originally applied for 6,270 Animal Units (AU) or about 4,550 cows and steers.  Well to us this was pretty clear.  Less water = less animals.  After Judge Boldt’s decision came down, Richfield Dairy still asked for 6,270 Animal Units.  Friends of the Central Sand's legal counsel protested to the DNR that this number was too high, given the reduced 52.5 million gallons per year (MGPY) pumping limit, and argued that a cap of 4,279 AU was appropriate based on the dairy’s own documentation.    Well, the DNR has tentatively decided to modify the WPDES permit and include a cap of 6,270 AU—just what Richfield Dairy asked for.  The draft permit is here. They did not provide strong justification for their decision, so FOCS legal counsel contacted DNR staff directly.   Our legal counsel was told that the DNR didn’t believe that Judge Boldt actually required the AU number to be tied to the pumping limit.  We obviously disagree.  It’s pretty clear from Judge Boldt’s own words that he intended the AU cap to be tied to the pumping limit, that he wanted DNR to attempt this analysis, and that the expectation was that the AU limit would be lower as a result of the pumping limit.  The DNR couldn’t set a random AU cap and let the Dairy determine how to comply with the pumping limit.





What is happening to our water?
See these short commercials produced by FOCS

Not Standing Still:  The Degradation of Wisconsin's Water

A short film by FOCS depicting the loss of water in Wisconsin's Central Sands


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