Bob Haase’s Another Can Of Worms

High Capacity Wells & the Budget Bill

Every year a number of things get slipped into the State Budget Bill that really don’t belong in the Budget Bill.  The reason they do not belong there is that they do not have direct budget implications.  Another reason that they do not belong there is that they do not get the same scrutiny and public input.  So why put them in the Budget Bill?  The reason is that it is easy to slip things through that would fail to pass going through the normal legislative process.  By the time people find out about it, it is already passed as part of the Budget Bill.


One example is the new regulations regarding high capacity wells.  Representative Dan LeMahieu, introduced legislation to be part of the Budget Bill that would prevent citizens from challenging high capacity well permit applications.  The bill also eliminates the need to consider other wells in the area or the cumulative effect of all the wells in the surrounding area when making the decision to award the permit.  If a proposed new high capacity well would affect surrounding property owners wells, or lower the water lever of streams and lakes, that would not be allowed to be considered in awarding the permit.  In other words, if the new high capacity well would cause surrounding property owners wells to go dry… too bad!


In 2011, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reconfirmed the state’s duty under the public trust doctrine to protect our water resources.  The decision was in regard to a dispute between the city of East Troy and the property owners of  Lake Beulah, a spring fed lake near East Troy.  The public trust doctrine through the Wisconsin Constitution confers to the state the obligation to ensure that it’s navigable waters are protected for the benefit of the public.  Our underground aquifers just like surface water lakes and streams belong to the public and deserve the same protection.


There is currently a lawsuit challenging high capacity well permits for a large factory farm in Adams County.  The  group making the challenge is arguing that the WDNR should consider the cumulative effects of all the wells in the area rather that basing its decision on each well independently.  Large factory farms use large amounts of water and are constantly applying for more wells.  Frac mining which is growing in Wisconsin uses large amounts of water and needs many more high capacity wells to operate.  The new mining operation in Northern Wisconsin would also be a high capacity user of water.  If companies could drill as many wells as they want and don’t have to worry about legal challenges of causing water supply shortages for others it would make it a lot easier for them. 


It is wrong for our legislators to sneak this into the Budget Bill and it is also wrong to take away citizens rights to appeal or challenge things that affect their lives.  The WDNR is suppose to protect our natural resources, including our water supplies, but this bill takes away any power they have to do that.


There are a lot of things that get stuck in the Budget Bill that most citizens would be against but I guess our legislators are more concerned about supporting big business than the citizens that elected them. 


Bob Haase is the host of “Outdoors Thursday” heard Thursday mornings at 9:10 a.m. on News-Talk 1450 KFIZ.