A change in permitting for large livestock operations is part of a sweeping plan to reorganize the state Department of Natural Resources. DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp says the agency will develop so-called “assurance programs” in which qualified private consultants would have a role in providing the technical information used in drafting permits that establish standards for agricultural operations, including Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs.
“We can do more work to make sure there is compliance, implememt enforcement if that’s required, and of course working with permit applicants on the front end,” Stepp said. “Instead of spending so much time buried in papers, we can spend much more time making sure there’s compliance and enforcement happening when we need to do that.”
The DNR will continue to write the permits, but as explained by Jennifer Sereno Strategic Communications Manager for the agency,
“The intent of the assurance program is to elevate the quality of submittals coming into the department so as to significantly reduce staff time needed to engage in a ‘back and forth’ with applicants and their consultants to complete an application.
The concept of assurance means that after an individual (consultant or engineer, not a firm) demonstrates educational qualifications, experience and technical accuracy in the development of a specific plan type (in this case, nutrient management plans, wetland delineations, and shoreline protection) the department can minimize review time associated with those activities and spend time on other high priority activities such as complex project review and compliance monitoring.”
The extensive set of changes at the DNR will need approval by the legislature and the governor. According to the DNR, some key points regarding the overall agency and some specific program-level changes include:
· DNR’s mission is not changing and the alignment effort will not weaken environmental or conservation standards. Instead, the effort is intended to maximize how we use the staff resources we have available, working with our partners to accomplish our mission.
· The alignment effort will involve significant changes for approximately 5 percent of the department’s 2,549 full-time employees. These changes may include changes to position descriptions, differences in reporting structure or changes in division assignments resulting from the transformation of seven operational units to five: Forestry; Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Environmental Management; Internal Services; and External Services.
· Other employees may see lesser changes to their position descriptions or program structures. A majority of employees will see no change.
· Responsibility for staff with law enforcement authority will be shifted to the Bureau of Law Enforcement. Law enforcement specialization will improve consistency in delivery of services and administrative efficiencies with hiring, training and policy development.
· The Fish, Wildlife and Parks Division will manage all property management staff and functions. As a result of the changes, Fish, Wildlife and Parks will provide better customer experiences at state properties and more effectively deploy staff and equipment to perform needed habitat work.
· Also, the department’s 19 researchers now located in the Bureau of Science Services will join other scientists within programs as well as a new Office of Applied Science within the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Division to ensure management decisions are informed by the best available science.
· Within the Internal Services Division, a new bureau will focus on facility and property services including real estate operations and property planning.
· Within the Environmental Management Division, staff working on water-related sediment cleanups will be combined with staff working on soil cleanups in the Remediation & Redevelopment Program to provide a more consistent approach to on-shore and in-water cleanups.
· The External Services Division will use the department’s assured wetland delineator program as a model to develop and staff assurance programs for items such as nutrient management plan review and lake shoreline stabilization projects. This model will free staff to provide greater oversight in the field.
Stepp said the agency will also work to adrress longstanding groundwater concerns in northeastern Wisconsin. “This administration is looking to solve these problems, not just have bumper sticker sound bites about how we care.”