Environmental Protection

Wisconsin Groundwater Law Good; More Work Needed

A 2004 groundwater quantity law is working as lawmakers intended to bolster protection for Wisconsin trout streams and other resource waters from potential impacts from new high-capacity wells, according to a report recently delivered to Wisconsin lawmakers by an advisory group charged with assessing the law.

“Overall, the committee believes Act 310 is working as originally intended as a first step in integrated water management,” states the submittal letter signed by Groundwater Advisory Committee co-chairs Ron Kuehn and M. Carol McCartney and agreed to by the 12 other members.

“The law has provided an added level of environmental protection for trout streams, outstanding resource waters, exceptional resource waters and springs by ensuring that potential impacts to these resources be evaluated and reduced as part of the high-capacity well approval process,” according to a Jan. 8 press release.

However, the letter notes that “further work remains to be done to build upon the successes of Act 310” and said that information collected as the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) continues to implement the law, along with ongoing research and monitoring, “will be essential as enhancements to the regulatory framework are contemplated.” The full letter and the report are available on the DNR Web site.

The Groundwater Advisory Committee was established under 2003 Wisconsin Act 310, and charged with reporting back to the legislature on how the law is working and the adequacy of specific provisions of the law. Under Act 310, new high-capacity wells get an environmental review when they are located within 1,200 feet of a trout stream or those lakes or rivers officially designated as exceptional or outstanding resource waters, certain springs, and certain well systems with specific water losses.

Areas the committee unanimously agreed on included that Wisconsin needs a comprehensive statewide water management plan or strategy that would establish a vision and priorities for the long-term management of the state’s groundwater and its lakes, rivers and wetlands. It also endorsed making improvements in the statewide groundwater monitoring network.

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