New Well Could Harm Lake Beulah, Suit Contends
The percolating objections to the drilling of a high-capacity well near Lake Buelah have led to a lawsuit, described in the news release reprinted below.
At stake, beyond the threat to the lake and surrounding wetlands, rivers and properties, is the process by which the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources awards such permits - - a huge deal particularly in water-hungry sprawl areas of southeastern Wisconsin.
Lawton & Cates, S.C.
Ten East Doty Street, Suite 400
Madison, Wisconsin 53703-2694
telephone: (608) 282-6200
facsimile: (608) 282-6252
PRESS RELEASE – APRIL 15, 2008 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST STATE OF WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND VILLAGE OF EAST TROY
In an effort to protect public waterways and safeguard vulnerable wetlands, several individuals and two lake management districts filed suit today in Dane County Circuit Court against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Village of East Troy, located in Walworth County, Wisconsin. The lawsuit focuses on the lack of testing and consideration of whether a high capacity well is likely to harm nearby natural resources. The well was installed by the Village and approved by the DNR. The plaintiffs in this action seek to prevent operation of this well, and construction of any similar well likely to impact wetlands and public waters, until and unless the DNR first determines that the amount of groundwater withdrawn will not harm natural resources.
High capacity wells are defined as wells capable of withdrawing at least 100,000 gallons per day. The DNR is the agency responsible for approving all high capacity wells in the state.
The well that instigated this lawsuit, designated as “Village Well # 7,” has been constructed in a location approximately 1000 feet from the shoreline of Lake Beulah and its adjacent wetlands. Lake Beulah is an 840-acre, spring-fed lake in southeast Wisconsin, and serves as a source of water to the Mukwonago River. The Mukwonago River is considered an exceptional resource water and is home to a variety of endangered species. In 2003 the DNR approved the Village’s application to construct the well, and it extended that approval in 2005. On neither occasion did the DNR consider whether the well would impact natural resources.
Under its permit for Well # 7, the Village is allowed to withdraw up to 1.4 million gallons of water per day from the shallow aquifer that feeds the lake. That rate is roughly twice the volume of water the Perrier Group of America sought approval to pump from a high capacity well it proposed to install in Adams County in 2000. In that instance, the DNR did perform an environmental assessment, although Perrier elected to install its well elsewhere.
The plaintiffs in this case contend that the DNR has a duty under state statutes and the “Public Trust Doctrine” of the Wisconsin Constitution to protect all navigable waterways in the state. The six-count complaint alleges that the DNR violated those public trust responsibilities and its associated duty to protect vital wetlands. The complaint also alleges that the Village of East Troy violated state law requirements that it protect navigable waters and that it proceeded to install Village Well # 7 without a valid approval. The complaint chronicles several years of actions and inaction by the DNR and the Village aimed at controverting and subverting existing environmental protection duties and policies so as to move forward with this well without having to analyze its potential detrimental impact.
The actual and potential impact of high capacity wells on shallow aquifers that also serve as the source of groundwater feeding lakes, streams and wetlands has become a significant issue throughout Wisconsin, and particularly in rapidly developing areas of southeastern Wisconsin. A reduction in the flow of groundwater due to the operation of a high capacity well could impact the temperature and chemistry of surface waters, further endangering ecosystems already threatened by invasive species. In some circumstances the operation of a well could reduce surface water levels and affect wetlands. The plaintiffs in this case contend that the DNR must evaluate such possibilities before approving any high capacity well whose operation might damage those resources.
FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT EITHER FRANK DAVENPORT OF BERGER, NEWMARK & FENCHEL P.C. AT 312-782-5050 OR DANIEL P. BACH OF LAWTON & CATES, S.C. AT 608-282-6200.
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