Sunday, March 12, 2017

3/15 hearing kicks off permanent WI groundwater privatization

Shakespeare warned us that bad things could happen on 3/15 - - the Ides of March - -  and sure enough, 3/15 is when a joint Wisconsin Assembly/Senate committee hearing in Madison will launch Big Ag and Big Dairy's 
long-sought push to finally win permanently-held rights to massive amounts of Wisconsin ground water through an expanding number of wells which pump at least 100,000 gallons of water a day.

The Ides of March spelled trouble for Shakespeare's Caesar; fittingly, perhaps, it's the day on which in Wisconsin, our own emperor may in fact render unto private interests that which is not Caesar's to transfer in the first place.

The organization Wisconsin Lakes has a fine summary of the hearing details, issues and bill language, here:

It would prohibit the state from reviewing a high capacity well’s permit when it is repaired, reconstructed, replaced, or transferred. Because this would leave such wells with no time in which their permits are reviewed, the bill creates a virtual right to withdraw water that would never expire.
This blog has followed this issue for years, as corporate control of public resources like water drive the Walker 'chamber of commerce mentality'/ intentional DNR-weakening/ Wisconsin GOP playbook, - - now assisted at the request of the GOP-run Legislature by a unsurprisingly favorable give-the-water-away opinion from GOP attorney General Brad Schimel.

And has accelerated special interests' access with state government assistance to water that began in the early days of Walker's rule:

Walker was sworn in as Wisconsin Governor on January 3, 2011 - - five days after announcing his selection of [developer and DNR-basher Cathy] Stepp to run the DNR - - and nine days later he suspended the review of a wetland filling permit application so one of his campaign donors could more quickly begin building a project near Lambeau Field... 
A year later, Walker signed in front of cheering Realtors at their convention a bill which weakened environmental protections for wetlands.
As to campaign donations and environmental issues in the state? 
The pattern continues to this day - - both the fillings and the campaign donations - - as recent stories and records show:
An out-of-state investment company wants to build a sand mining and processing plant in Jackson and Monroe counties that would eliminate about 17 acres of pristine forested wetland, according to plans being reviewed by state and federal regulators.
The project is sought by Meteor Timber, a company owned by Atlanta, Ga.-based Timberland Investment Resources. A Timberland executive and attorneys with Weld Riley, an Eau Claire law firm that represents Meteor, contributed about $23,000 since January 2010 to Republican and Democratic legislative and statewide candidates. 
*  Major Walker campaign donor Herb Kohler is working with the DNR on a plan to allow Kohler to turn a 247-acre wooded/wetland/artifact-rich nature preserve into a golf course along Lake Michigan 
The plan would even require four acres of an adjoining, popular state park to be included in the privately-owned, high end golf course project... 
Also, the DNR, with assists from Wisconsin's corporately-attuned GOP Attorney General and State Supreme Court majority whose campaign committees have received millions of dollars in donations from Walker-sympathetic business and conservative advocacy organizations, has loosened the rules governing high-volume well pumping permits which supply water to diary and farming and frackers sand operations - - but which can deplete nearby waters, as is well-known
*  Records show Walker's campaign has received more than $30,000 from two of the most recent big-volume ground water permit winners: 
One of the permits was granted to James Wysocki, of Bancroft, for a well located in Pine Grove in Portage County. Wysocki and several members of his family own the Wysocki Family of Companies, which operates large vegetable and dairy farms. 
The owners of the Wysocki Family of Companies contributed about $31,000 to Walker between January 2010 and August 2016...
The consequences of Walker's destruction of a science-based DNR are documented and known.

The consequences of over pumping groundwater are known and documented.

The consequences of using massive amounts of water to irrigate more acreage and support dairy cattle and contaminate drinking water are known and documented, and props to Kewaunee Cares and Midwest Environmental Advocates for taking a stand.

The campaign contribution connections are known and documented.

So now the end-game in our one-party state is in sight as state power may allow big volume groundwater permits to be handed out like party favors and, if the legislation is approved, be transferred and held forever in the owners' - - not the public's - -  control.

Downstream neighbors, drinking water quality, effects on the environment, impacts on the water table and, through enabled, inevitable runoff into Lake Michigan - - all be damned.

Here are the hearing details:

The Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform, along with the Assembly Committee on Agriculture will hold a hearing on SB76/AB105:




Anonymous said...

This is privatization of a resource on a grand scale. Those who own the land will now own the water under it. The biggest winners are the biggest land owners and all they have to pay is a paltry high capacity well fee. This is redistribution of wealth from the state to a few individuals on an enormous scale. Forget sweet corn and potatoes. They will be able to sell our state-owned water to the highest bidder. These so-called farmers are thieves on a scale not seen since they clear cut Wisconsin.

Anonymous said...

#1 "Clear cut WI. Many family farms on the Great Plains had homes built with WI lumber. Also, much farm land was put into production in WI, BECAUSE of the cutting of the woodlands. People ate as a result.

#2. How does it not seem fair that those who own land have a right to the water under it? In AZ, water "ownership" is directly tied to the land that contains it.

#3, a part of the problem is that not all stake holders are represented. For example, a friend owns a cottage on a lake near Wysocki Farms, and the lake now averages about 10" lower than historical levels. On a shallow lake, that is very significant. So farming DESTROYED part of the value of that cottage. Not sure exactly the mechanism that can or should be employed, but the loss of value should be compensated by those who caused it, also as a matter of property rights.

BTW, another near-by lake has gone completely to swamp, as cattails and shallow water plants now cover virtually all the remaining water surface. Probably 3 or 4 dozen properties there are affected, at least.