URGENT – Your help is needed to protect Wisconsin’s groundwater

Wisconsin TU has just learned that a groundwater bill is set for hearing this Wednesday, October 7th, at 2:30 p.m. The hearing will be held at the State Capitol, in Madison, in Room 411 South.


The bill in question is Senate Bill 239. Wisconsin TU is opposed to this bill.


It is incredibly important that Wisconsin TU have a strong showing to speak about how this bill could have serious and long lasting negative impacts for Wisconsin’s people, its coldwater streams, and our economy.


The Wisconsin Reference Bureau has issued the following analysis of the bill:

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau

Current law requires a person to obtain approval from the Department of
Natural Resources (DNR) before constructing or operating a high capacity well,
which is a well that, together with all other wells on the same property, has the
capacity to withdraw more than 100,000 gallons of water per day.

This bill provides that no additional approval is needed for the owner of an
approved high capacity well to repair or maintain the well; to construct a
replacement high capacity well of substantially the same depth within a 75-foot
radius of the existing high capacity well; to reconstruct the existing high capacity
well; or to transfer the approval at the same time as the owner transfers the land on
which the approved high capacity well is located. No additional fee is required for
any of these actions, but the owner of the existing approved high capacity well must
notify DNR of any replacement, reconstruction, or transfer. The owner may not take
any of these actions if they would be inconsistent with the standards or conditions
of the existing high capacity well approval, and the standards and conditions of the
approval continue to apply after any of these actions are taken.


This bill concerns Wisconsin Trout Unlimited for a number of reasons.

• High capacity wells can pump an incredibly significant amount of water per day (up to millions of gallons). Groundwater undeniably influences our lakes and coldwater streams, and in Wisconsin’s Central Sands region groundwater use is one factor leading to lakes and trout streams literally running dry. Wisconsin TU supports well considered and planned groundwater use, and fears that eliminating permitting and review steps may lead to adverse results.

• According to an American Sportfishing Association study, recreational angling in Wisconsin leads to a $2.2 BILLION annual economic impact. Wisconsin is the third ranked destination fishing state, with over 335,000 visiting anglers spending over $445 MILLION here each year. Anglers spend $1.4 BILLION on fishing related retail expenditures in Wisconsin each year, supporting over 21,000 jobs paying $665 MILLION in salaries and wages, and providing $148 MILLION in local and state tax revenue. Ensuring that reasonable permitting and review steps exist for high capacity wells is necessary to make sure that Wisconsin’s waters continue to serve as an economic engine for our State.

• As our State continues to grow and as groundwater use increases, and as rainfall levels vary from year to year, regions’ capabilities to sustain high capacity water withdrawals fluctuate. Quite simply, groundwater levels change and as such levels change common sense dictates that it is reasonable to ensure that water use is adjusted accordingly. Eliminating permitting and review steps where common sense adjustments could be applied has the potential to lead to disastrous results.


This is an “all hands on deck” moment, and if you do one thing for Wisconsin TU this year, please let this be it.


Please contact your legislators, and tell them that SB239 needs to be sent back to the drawing board, and not advanced. You can find your legislators’ contact information here: http://legis.wisconsin.gov.

(use the “Find my Legislators” link in the upper right corner).


In addition to your own legislators, please contact SB239’s sponsors and express your concerns about this bill:


Senator Richard Gudex Sen.Gudex@legis.wisconsin.gov (608) 266-5300

Senator Howard Marklein Sen.Marklein@legis.wi.gov (608) 266-0703

Senator Terry Moulton Sen.Moulton@legis.wisconsin.gov (608) 266-7511

Senator Van Wanggaard Sen.Wanggaard@legis.wisconsin.gov (608) 266-1832


Finally, please contact all members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business, and Tourism, and let them know your concerns about this bill as well:


Senator Moulton (Chair)

Senator Tiffany (Vice-Chair)

Senator Harsdorf

Senator Petrowski

Senator LeMahieu

Senator Vinehout

Senator Erpenbach

Senator Hansen

Senator L. Taylor



The hearing on this bill is this Wednesday, Oct. 7. Please contact legislators early, contact them often, and let your voice be heard.

Thank you

Linn Beck

Wisconsin Trout Unlimited

State Council Chair