Water organization leader: Judge overstepped authority in well decision

By MAA
A Dane County judge ignored an opinion from the Wisconsin Attorney General and state law when vacating eight high capacity well permits issued by the Department of Natural Resources, according to the leader of a non-partisan organization focused on protecting the state’s water resources and advocating for sound water policies.
“This is an ill-advised and seriously flawed decision from a Madison judge who wants to legislate from the bench rather than follow the statutory law and accept the opinion of the Wisconsin Attorney General,” said Dan Ellsworth, president of the Wisconsin Water Alliance. “In reaching its faulty decision, the court ignored a 2016 attorney general opinion that correctly states the DNR’s authority and the proper statutory provisions controlling the issuance of high capacity wells.”
Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn ruled this week the DNR had ample authority to set limits on well applications to protect drinking water supplies and lakes and streams that might be affected by heavy water use.
Ellsworth said the ruling also goes against Act 310, which was enacted by the Wisconsin Legislature in 2003 and contains specific requirements for issuing high capacity wells, and Act 21, which provides that explicit statutory laws are controlling and the public trust doctrine is not implicated when issuing permits for high capacity wells.
“These laws were enacted by the Legislature to give certainty to the regulatory permitting process without sacrificing water protections. Unfortunately, the judge failed to read the clear statutory law that regulates high capacity wells and instead invoked a flawed and incorrect reading of the public trust doctrine,” he said. “We expect the case will be appealed and are confident that it will be overturned.”
Ellsworth said WWA will continue to work to protect the state’s water resources and advocate for sound water policies that benefit current and future generations of Wisconsin families, cities, businesses, farmers and others.

Group formed to protect Wisconsin’s water

By MAA

A diverse group representing Wisconsin businesses and landowners have formed a new organization aimed at broadening the discussion about Wisconsin’s fresh water supply and the important role it plays in sustaining and growing the state’s economy.

The Wisconsin Water Alliance (WWA) will advocate for common sense regulations and policies that both help protect the state’s abundant fresh water supplies and foster a science and fact based discussion on water related issues, said Dan Ellsworth, who serves as president of the WWA board and is president and CEO of ANIMART LLC.

“Wisconsin has an abundant supply of freshwater, including deep, replenishing aquifers, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, the Wisconsin River, many other rivers and streams and an estimated 15,000 inland lakes,” he said. “We want to work with policy makers and others who share our commitment in protecting this vital natural resource for generations to come and to also make sure that we can continue to rely on it to help drive the state’s economy.”

Ellsworth added the WWA has as its mission to advocate for sound water policies that benefit current and future generations of Wisconsin families, cities, businesses, and others.

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Demonstration network focuses on farm sustainability

By MaryBeth Matzek
MAA Editor

Farmers in Kewaunee and southern Door counties are teaming up with multiple partners to study and demonstrate conservation practices to protect groundwater and surface water in the region.

The Door-Kewaunee Demonstration Farm Network is a partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Door and Kewaunee Land Conservation Departments and Peninsula Pride Farms, a farmer-led organization. The network was officially launched with a Sept. 7 field day at the Deer-Run Dairy LLC near Kewaunee, one of four farms participating in the network. The other participants include: Augustian Farms LLC in Kewaunee, Brey Cycle Farm LLC in Sturgeon Bay and Kinnard Farms in Casco.

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Proposed manure rule change worries farmers

By MaryBeth Matzek
MAA Editor

If the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources restricts manure application in certain regions of the state, farmer Rob Kiehneau is afraid his small Door County dairy will close.

Kiehneau, who milks between 60 and 70 cows and grows crop at his Egg Harbor farm, said about 75 percent of his farm rests on land with less than 2 feet of soil to bedrock. Under proposed changes to NR 151, farms with less than 2 feet of soil to bedrock would not be able to spread manure.

“We feel we do a good job with our applications. This rule change would make it hard for us to operate in our present location,” Kiehneau said during a hearing Friday on the proposed rule change at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. An estimated 30 people spoke at the hearing, which was simulcast in Madison.

The DNR announced the proposed changes to manure spreading rules in certain parts of Wisconsin to address decades-old groundwater quality issues in areas with Karst topography. Karst topography features shallow soils over heavily fractured limestone bedrock, which makes it easier for water and livestock waste from the surface and human waste from aging septic systems to enter the groundwater.

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Kewaunee water woes linked to animals, people

By MaryBeth Matzek
MAA Editor

Research shows that human and bovine waste is finding its way into wells in Kewaunee County.

Dr. Mark Borchardt, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, shared those findings during a presentation earlier this year at the 2017 Midwest Manure Summit in Green Bay. In a study funded by the Department of Natural Resources, Borchardt and his team used DNA sequencing to identify bacteria and pathogens in different Kewaunee County wells to determine if they came from cows or people.

The county has been ground zero in Wisconsin in the battle between some residents and large-scale farmers. In 2014, six environmental groups petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate groundwater contamination in the county. The DNR then brought together farmers, neighbors, environmental groups and government officials to find strategies to reduce groundwater pollution risk.

“There has been a lot of finger pointing and politics going on regarding water in Kewaunee County so we took a closer look at this issue to determine the source of the pollution,” Borchardt said. “The evidence shows both people and cows are contaminating the groundwater in Kewaunee County.”

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Yahara Pride successfully reduces phosphorus levels

By MaryBeth Matzek
MAA Editor

By making changes to their farm practices during the past several years, Yahara Pride Farms members dramatically reduced the amount of phosphorous entering the Yahara River watershed. But while they’ve been successful, members say there is plenty of work left to do.
“Five years ago, we had no idea we would be here,” said Bob Uphoff, owner of Uphoff Ham & Bacon Farm and vice-chair of the Yahara Pride Farms Conservation Board. “As we keep making changes and improvements, who knows where we will be in five years?”
Yahara Pride Farms held its annual watershed-wide conference on March 2 to share information and research on the different steps being taken to decrease the amount of phosphorus in the watershed and to celebrate its successes.

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