Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wisconsin groundwater battle explained

I'd noted all weekend the growing number of detailed media reports about the expanding battle over water use and rights in Wisconsin, so want to add to that archive an interesting legal analysis, here:
boat on sand
Wisconsin’s waters have been protected since before it was a state. The concept of the public trust doctrine, or the state holding navigable waters in trust so they remain forever free and open to the public, was passed down from the Northwest Ordinance to the Wisconsin Constitution, article IX, section 1.1 State statutes have since been crafted to protect Wisconsin’s groundwater and surface water and to give the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) primary responsibility for overseeing this resource. 
But Wisconsin’s waters are facing a threat: they are being dried from the bottom up. As high-capacity wells proliferate in Wisconsin, water in groundwater-fed streams and lakes is being diverted to these wells beneath the surface, reducing surface water levels and stream flows. 
Add into the equation the diminution of the state's historic forestry industries, and a sell-off of timberland for water-hogging enterprises like golf courses and industrial-scale farm animal feeding operations, and you can see why the number of high-capacity wells in Wisconsin is exploding - - thousands added in the last few years and another 125 new such wells applied for in just the last 36 weeks, DNR data show.

And, by the way, we really miss the Office of the Public Intervenor in Wisconsin which then-Governor Tommy Thompson dismantled that had been created on a bi-partisan basis to serve citizens facing environmental harm. The takeaway:

It's easy to kill programs and harder-to-impossible to revive them, as we are going to re-learn in Wisconsin in the decades ahead.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is well past time for the governor and the legislature to break with WMC, which has directed legislative business deregulation and policy for the last five years and stand with the people of this state and give the DNR back the "regularity authority" to protect Wisconsin's water resources from corporate abuse and misuse!