Proposed legislation on changing when high capacity well permits need a review drew hours of testimony at the Capitol Wednesday.
An overflow crowd waited for hours to speak on the bill, which allows those operating wells pumping over 100,000 gallons a day to avoid a permit review when they repair, re-drill, or sell their property.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), a sponsor, said the measure is needed to give certainty to those who rely on those wells operating efficiently to stay in business. “For a small farm or business that goes through the time and expense to get such a permit, they need certainty that they will be able to continue to operate under that permit,” he testified. “They also need the ability to maintain these wells without fear that doing so will trigger new, costly permitting.”
Critics of the bill argue those wells should be regularly reviewed, because of their potential impact on groundwater supplies. Carol Elvery of Waupaca believes those wells have reduced lake levels in the state’s central sands region, and argued the bill benefits only a few, “at the expense of all the rest of us.”
Several agricultural industry groups testified though that they are interested in making sure groundwater is protected. Dairy Business Association board member Cody Heller told lawmakers that the state’s ample water supplies give them a competitive advantage. However, he argued that those resources should not be “squandered” through over-regulation.
Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association executive director Tamas Houlihan also stressed that the wells covered by the bill are ones that already exist and have DNR approval, but just need repairs or new access to keep them operating. “New DNR approval of these existing and previously approved wells would be redundant,” he argued.
A similar bill passed in the state Senate last session, but the measure died after the Assembly approved a different version. Fitzgerald told lawmakers he hopes to bring the latest version to the floor of the Senate for a vote sometime next month.