Citizens and the public interest law firm Midwest Environmental Advocates, (MEA), are challenging a livestock waste management permit and dispersal plan approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for a huge Wisconsin dairy, Kinnard Farms, in the Town of Lincoln.
Hearings to contest the expansion permit approved by the DNR begin Tuesday, Feb. 11th in Green Bay City Hall; public testimony begins at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 12th.
At the center of the dispute is the dairy's plan, OK'ed by the DNR, to store and then spread up to 70 million gallons of liquid manure and other livestock waste.
The approval process - - detailed here - - illustrates everything that is wrong at the DNR - - traditionally a neutral, honest-broker natural resources agency - - that is now directed by senior managers from the Wisconsin private sector implementing Scott Walker's self-described "chamber-of-commerce mentality."
Why should everyday Wisconsin citizens have to raise and spend their own limited funds to fight not only the neighboring big dairy over clean water and environmental protection, but also take on the DNR itself - - a state agency supported by those same citizens' income taxes?
Citizens who are not getting taxation with representation; in fact, their having to hire lawyers is like being taxed a second time to get a job done that the DNR should be doing on the citizens' behalf.
A job it continues to let slide.
Clean water access and enjoyment for all the people of the state is guaranteed by the Wisconsin State Constitution's Article IX, "The Public Trust Doctrine," and is assigned specifically to the DNR by Wisconsin case law, according to the DNR's web page on water rights:
Wisconsin's Public Trust Doctrine requires the state to intervene to protect public rights in the commercial or recreational use of navigable waters. The DNR, as the state agent charged with this responsibility, can do so through permitting requirements for water projects, through court action to stop nuisances in navigable waters, and through statutes authorizing local zoning ordinances that limit development along navigable waterways.
The court has ruled that DNR staff, when they review projects that could impact Wisconsin lakes and rivers, must consider the cumulative impacts of individual projects in their decisions. "A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist. Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC.As MEA notes in an informational email about the hearings:
Petitioners are concerned that an expansion of Kinnard’s industrial dairy will produce so much waste that its plans to manage, store, and spread manure on area land will result in runoff into area surface and downstream waters, and will contaminate the groundwater on which the families rely for drinking water in their private wells.
The DNR issued the permit before Kennard's design plans for the expanded facility were complete and reviewed and approved by the agency.
This denied the public’s right to review and voice their concerns about the expansion and hampered the agency’s ability to determine whether additional conditions or monitoring were necessary to protect the area’s land and water. The agency also did not include a limit on the number of cows at the dairy, which is essential to an enforceable permit...
In the Town of Lincoln, around half of the drinking wells tested were already contaminated.Why doesn't the DNR consult its own web pages, state law and the Constitution when it sets out to do a task that is their's, and that the law and public interest demands?
And why is the Wisconsin Legislature considering bills to make groundwater withdrawals easier while making it harder for an already-disinterested DNR from considering the very "cumulative impacts" of water withdrawals that the State Supreme Court said nearly a half-century ago was needed to keep Wisconsin's water clean and available?