SS SB24 and SS AB24 will have significant adverse impact on Wisconsin lakes and streams and will greatly limit the opportunity for Wisconsin citizens to have public input on lake and stream development projects. Specifically;
SS SB24 and SS AB24 substantially limit Wisconsin Citizen’s ability to protect their lakes and streams. Lake and stream users including hunters, anglers and trappers and riparian owners have the Constitutional right to object and intervene in DNR decisions that adversely affect lakes and streams. The bills specifically:
1. force citizens to evaluate proposed projects on incomplete information from applicants;
2. eliminate notices of applications to citizens in their local newspapers. Many citizens, especially in rural areas, do not have easy access to internet notices;
3. reduce the amount of time that citizens have to review applications from 30 days to 20 days;
4. put the burden of proof on an application on the citizen rather than the permit applicant.
SS SB24 and SS AB24 significantly weaken environmental regulations protecting fish and wildlife habitat. The bills substantially reduce DNR’s ability to evaluate projects that will lead to inadequate application of environmental regulations and also directly remove environmental standards. The bills specifically:
1. limit DNR’s authority to ask the applicant for additional information about a project even when the applicant continues to not provide the needed information;
2. force DNR to make permit decisions on incomplete applications;
3. prohibit DNR from denying a permit application on grounds that the application is incomplete even when the applicant does not provide the needed information;
4. create default permits when DNR is unable to process an application in time even when the DNR has insufficient staff to process the permit or even when the applicant has not provided adequate information;
5. remove DNR’s authority to prevent serious environmental damage by the construction of piers in the state’s most sensitive water areas known as “Areas of Special Natural Resource Interest”
6. require DNR to issue a general permit to any riparian owner to remove five 10 yard dump trucks of material from the bed of a lake or stream on an annual basis for their pier or boatlift. The cumulative affect of this considering the hundreds of thousands of piers in Wisconsin can have serious adverse affect on fish and wildlife habitat and water quality;
7. require DNR to issue a general permit to any riparian owner to remove fifty 10 yard dump trucks of “plant and animal nuisance” (undefined) from the bed of a lake or stream on an annual basis. Once again, individually or cumulatively, this can have serious adverse impacts on fish and wildlife habitat and water quality;
8. remove DNR’s authority to designate additional areas of the most valuable and significant scientific value for protection from development in lakes and streams;
9. require DNR to establish expedited procedures for the approval of certain dams. Often these dams can cause serious environmental damage and block spawning fish from getting to their spawning habitat.
SS SB24 and SS AB24 violate the Constitutionally based Public Trust Doctrine protecting navigable waters by allowing private development on public lake and stream beds. The beds of lakes and the water area of streams are owned by the Citizens of Wisconsin under the State Constitution. Private structures in those areas are to be limited to whatever is necessary to allow riparian owners to use the waters for their navigation. The bills specifically:
1. remove DNR’s authority (prospectively and retroactively) to prevent the construction of private condominiums and other private structures on filled public lake beds and streams which are protected by the Public Trust Doctrine. This provision has been placed in the bills partially because of a lawsuit currently underway in the Circuit Court of Manitowoc County. These bills will directly intervene in that litigation.
2. would grandfather many very large structures such as party decks and gazebos on the beds of lakes and streams that were built illegally. This would be contrary to a legislative compromise that was entered into in 2004 and voted for by several current legislators.
SS SB24 and SS AB 24 weaken environmental standards that apply to metallic mining in Wisconsin. Metallic mines require permits and approvals under many Wisconsin environmental laws. Many of these laws have been weakened by the provisions contained in these bills. The bill specifically:
1. would remove the requirement for the permit applicant for a major new stationary source of air pollution to perform air dispersion modeling before obtaining an air permit. This means that the proposed Penokee mine in Ashland and Iron County would not have to model their air emissions to ensure that their taconite pellet processing facility and their large electrical generating plant will meet compliance with air quality standards;
2. would create default permits for mine prospecting permits in the state.
Mine prospecting can cause significant damage to land and water if done improperly and the bills would grant default permits to applicants if DNR was unable to process the permit in time;
3. would create default permits for high capacity wells. Metallic mining
operations such as the proposed Penokee mine will need substantial makeup water for their operation which they will likely gain through high capacity wells. It would be virtually impossible for DNR to complete the necessary hydrological studies necessary for the mine in the short period of time set out for the high capacity well default permits;
4. would allow DNR to issue general permits rather than individual permits for the many stream alterations necessary for metallic mining projects;
5. would create default permits for the approval of licenses for oil and and gas production wells in Wisconsin. Oil and gas extraction, if not done properly can cause serious environmental damage and authority to do so should not be granted by default permits with inadequate DNR review.
Source: Wisconsin Wildlife Federation