Friends of the Central Sands Update

Our water and communities continue to be threatened, so what do we do? We keep fighting…  Here is a quick update:

  • Thanks to all who wrote the DNR asking for them to reissue the Richfield Dairy's WPDES permit with an animal unit cap that respects the dairy's 52.5  million gallons per year (MGPY) pumping limit.
    • Update: The DNR did impose a cap in the modified permit signed on October 27, 2015, but it gave the dairy exactly what it requested - 6,270 animal units.  We strongly disagree  and think the number should be closer to 4,279 animal units.  We have asked Judge Boldt to review the modified permit and determine whether or now it complies with his order.
  • A different judge in another case in Outagamie County ruled that DNR lacked authority to require New Chester Dairy (near Westfield) to monitor water levels in its wells. The monitoring was necessary to confirm whether groundwater impacts predicted in the dairy's groundwater model were correct.  This is very bad news.  Without monitoring how will anyone know before it is too late?  This is a big blow for citizen’s ability to watch over their drinking water.
  • Recent news stories have focused on groundwater quality and quantity in Wisconsin, and the news isn't good.  There are many issues around the state that are impacting our waters from pumping to contamination.  These are often posted on our Facebook page so be certain to follow us.
  • Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Legislature has two bills before it that would seriously curtail the state's ability to regulate high capacity wells, and make it tougher to address problem wells harming neighbors and surface water resources.  We have posted one of the bills from Senator Cowles on our website.  We testified at this hearing several weeks ago against the bill as it is currently written.  There is a companion bill by Representative Krug moving toward a hearing as well.

FOCS has been very active with the Central Sands Water Action Coalition (CSWAC).  Who is CSWAC?  It is a grassroots, volunteer coalition of 19 Lake Associations, Lake Districts and Conservation groups that are concerned about the negative impacts to water resources in the six county Central Sands region of Wisconsin.   We have been very pleased with the level of commitment by the members, all of whom share a deep concern for our vanishing water resources.  With the help of CSWAC here are some more details about pending legislation:


What is happening in the Legislature?
Currently, there are 3 bills under consideration:

Gudex bill - SB239
This bill would allow existing well owners to transfer a hi-cap well to a new owner. The new owner is then able to continue pumping under the terms of the original permit forever, without review by the DNR. Of course, that is the source of the current drawdown of surface waters in areas of the Central Sands. 

Cowles/Krug bill- SB291/AB477
This is the 2nd bill of concern which includes all of the Gudex bill and goes beyond that by creating a lengthy, convoluted process to be able to have a waterbody designated as a "Sensitive Resource Area" which would give DNR additional authority to manage groundwater withdrawal. While this sounds good on the surface, the process in its current form is so cumbersome it is questionable as to whether any SRA's would ever come to pass. 

Many CSWAC members attended the hearing on this bill in October. Based upon their input, the committee has agreed to make some changes to the bill to address some of the concerns raised during the hearing.  We are awaiting the release of those changes to determine if they go far enough to provide some certainty that we will have some protection for the water in our lakes, streams and wetlands. 

Miller/Mason bill - SB72/AB105
The third bill is the Miller/Mason bill which is, by far, superior to either of the others.  However, since both Miller and Mason are Democrats, this has no chance of passage in our current Legislature. 

What you Can Do?
A hearing for Cowles/Krug bill is tentatively scheduled for early December.  When we have the date and the CSWAC Legislative Response committee has an opportunity to review the amendments to Cowles/Krug bill, our next newsletter will provide you with information on contacting your representatives.  Please stay tuned!


Al Jazeera America made Wisconsin’s water a headline story!

In a 3 part story Al Jazeera America did an excellent job of exploring many of the issues facing Wisconsin's groundwater. Check them out!

Part 1: Politicized Environmental Agency Threatens Wisconsin’s Water, Critics Say

Part 2: The Vanishing Lakes of Wisconsin’s Central Sands

Part 3:  Something’s in the Water in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin



Please.. we need your financial support.  Having already spent over $300,000 on this fight your help is very important.  As our important work continues our bills keep coming in.  Make a gift to FOCS and help us protect Wisconsin's waters.  As a 501(c)3 your donations are tax deductible.



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