July 30, 2014

Lake level case to Supreme Court

The state Supreme Court hears arguments today on a contentious lake level case. It’s an appeal by the Rock-Koshkonong Lake District over DNR-controlled water levels at Lake Koshkonong, an impoundment on the Rock River in southeastern Wisconsin. The agency refused a 2003 request by the lake district, to increase lake levels by 7.2 inches. A circuit court rejected the request and an appeals upheld the ruling. Elizabeth Wheeler, a staff attorney at Clean Wisconsin, expects the Supreme Court will as well. “Our position is that DNR’s order was proper, and that they are squarely within their authority to consider water quality when setting lake levels, and secondary economic benefits should not be considered,” she said.

The lake district had asked the DNR to consider how higher lake levels could increase the recreational value of properties along the lake and boost revenue to businesses around the lake, the state’s sixth largest. Clean Wisconsin‘s Wheeler said a reversal of the lower court ruling could have consequences statewide. “This could be a really significant case for the state of Wisconsin. We have thousands of impoundment lakes, and wetlands perform very important functions surrounding lakes of all sorts.”