High Capacity Well bill is back... and it still doesn't allow for any periodic review of permits

Recently, Senate Bill 76 (SB 76) and Assembly Bill 105 (AB 105) were introduced.  These bills provides that no additional permit review is required for the owner of a high capacity well to repair or maintain a high capacity well, to construct a new replacement high capacity well within a 75 foot radius, to reconstruct a high capacity well at its same location and depth, or to transfer an existing high capacity well permit with the land upon which it is located. 


The full text of SB 76 (AB 105 reads the same) can be found here: http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/related/proposals/sb76


Wisconsin Trout Unlimited understands that these changes are being made at the request of agricultural groups who may need to quickly repair and replace failed wells so that a crop is not lost.  WITU understands such concerns, and appreciates the agricultural community which is one of our strongest partners statewide.


However, WITU is concerned that these bills would create infinite permits for high capacity wells, which are not subject to review even when a property is transferred.  As water use efficiency, population density, and weather conditions change (along with a host of other factors), so too should permitted water usage.  Locking in permits forever does not allow any flexibility in the future, and leaves courtroom litigation as the only recourse available to challenge issued permits.  Litigation is lengthy, and expensive for all parties, and should never be the only method left to deal with issued permits.   


Likewise, as our science progresses, so too does our ability to understand water usage and its systemic impact.  Locking in permits forever using today’s science eliminates the possibility of applying more advanced evaluation techniques as they are developed to high capacity well permits.  No one would choose to have surgery using the techniques in place one hundred years ago, and the same logic should clearly apply to permitting high capacity well permits.


As such, WITU supports having periodic review of high capacity well permits.  All users – from businesses, to agriculture, to municipal water supplies, to tourism-driving users or our lakes and streams – need to play together to support the billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs that such stakeholders each represent.  Periodic review, and appropriate permit adjustments when needed, ensure that all economies are protected, and that no one’s crop is lost. 


WITU is asking its members and friends to contact their legislators and tell them to add a periodic review component to SB 76 / AB 105, so that all high capacity wells are periodically reviewed by the Department of Natural Resources to ensure that usage is fair, and will not cause damage to others who depend on our State’s water resources.


You can find your legislature’s contact information by clicking on the “Find My Legislators” link at the top right of https://legis.wisconsin.gov/, and entering your address.


Please e-mail, call, and if possible meet with your legislator regarding this issue. 


If you’d be so kind, please copy wistroutleg@gmail.com on your communications so that WITU can track which legislators we’re reaching.


Thank you for all that you do for Wisconsin TU.


We've learned that the State Senate will be voting on SB 76 on Tuesday, April 4th.  We expect the Assembly to follow shortly after.

The State Senate passed the bill earlier in April and this could be voted on by the State Assembly as early as Tues. May 2, 2017