In the Walker administration's boldest attack yet on the State Constitution's "Public Trust Doctrine," GOP legislators Thursday morning at 10 a.m. will use their majority on the Natural Resources Committee to deregulate access for businesses to publicly-held groundwater.
Among the changes to current law: The current, "chamber-of-commerce" directed DNR will shrug its shoulders and willingly wave 'good-bye to its core water resource regulatory responsibilities, as new high-capacity wells will automatically be granted if the agency doesn't make a permit approval finding within 65 business days.
Sixty-five days? The DNR could miss that kind of deadline with a few well-timed scheduled vacations, though by disallowing the DNR to look at a well's cumulate impacts, the work load is definitely eased.
And a permit holder may transfer the permission to a new owner without any further review.
Turning the DNR into a bystander as big business gets even more of its selfish 'certainty' embedded into state law.
Talk about handing a business a valuable, fungible asset (comprised of your/our water).
The Senate committee about to apply its ideological rubber stamp Tuesday morning in 425 Southwest Capitol to the draining of groundwater-fed state rivers, wetland and lakes is chaired by the one-time moderate Republican and former-friend-of-the-environment State Senator Neal Kedzie, (R-Elkhorn).
Kedzie turned to the right after Walker's election and worked with Walker from Day One to remove wetlands' protections.
Given his separate 'leadership' on the Native American school mascot retention bill - - a Tea Party initiative pure-and-simple - - Kedzie is the biggest disappointment in the state legislature and the embodiment of reactionary, corporatist thinking that may drive the GOP's sole authentic pragmatic member, Dale Schultz, out of his Richland Center seat.
Regrettably, Kedzie and the rest of his corporate captive colleagues did not heed the "Protect the aquifers" advice offered by the Journal Sentinel editorial board in 2010:
The state's underground water supply has come under increasing pressure from development, more intensive agricultural practices and high-capacity wells. It's time for the state Legislature to approve a bill that would protect groundwater supplies and better regulate them in sensitive areas.
Such a bill was introduced this week by Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) and Rep. Spencer Black (D-Madison); it deserves to be approved in this legislative session…
The River Alliance of Wisconsin points out that the Little Plover River and Long Lake, both in the Central Sands area, routinely dry up as groundwater-based crop irrigation has increased and that changes in weather patterns have reduced rainfall in northwestern Wisconsin, leaving many lakes and rivers severely depleted.
Growth is good, but it shouldn't unnecessarily deplete the state of its natural resources.Ah, but that was back in the old days, before Walker, before business 'certainty' was allowed to trump the public interest, before ALEC and the WMC turned the state into a mining and big-ag. subsidiary.
Their water giveaway bill text, and changes, are here.
Who wins here, changing principles of law that originated before statehood in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787?
Mining companies that will leave behind toxins and debris in what's left of the water - - a lead sponsor is State Sen. Tom Tiffany, (R-Hazelhurst), the sand and iron mining industries' main water carrier - - along with big-time polluters like mega-dairies, and other businesses eager to drain the state's publicly-owned groundwater for their narrow special interests.
Who loses? You and I and the Public Trust Doctrine, which I have been writing about on this blog for several years, including:
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2013
There is a principle in state law and history known as the Public Trust Doctrine. Though awkwardly titled, it's crucial to Wisconsin's appeal by guaranteeing everyone here the right to access and enjoy all waters in the state.
The Public Trust Doctrine dates to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 - - long before Wisconsin statehood - - and is etched as Article IX in the Wisconsin State Constitution.
But this basic Wisconsin birthright remains under continuous assault by Gov. Walker, Republican legislators, business groups and even short-sighted judges.
And you don't have to be a water expert of political scientist to see there removing the Public Trust Doctrine from the state constitution, or watering it down to insignificance is atop the GOP's conservative and anti-conservation agenda.So when this bill becomes law, look to the DNR to get rid of this language on its website:
Wisconsin's Waters Belong to Everyone
Wisconsin lakes and rivers are public resources, owned in common by all Wisconsin citizens under the state's Public Trust Doctrine. Based on the state constitution, this doctrine has been further defined by case law and statute. It declares that all navigable waters are "common highways and forever free", and held in trust by the Department of Natural Resources.