The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation supports legislation that will provide certainty to farmers with existing high capacity wells on their farms.
Paul Zimmerman, WFBF’s Executive Director of Governmental Relations, testified in support of Senate Bill 239 today before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism.
Current law requires a person to obtain approval from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) before constructing a high capacity well. A high capacity well is defined as a well and all other wells on the same property that together have the capacity to withdraw more than 100,000 gallons of water per day.
Due to the 2011 State Supreme Court decision in Lake Beulah Management District vs. State, the DNR now has interpreted its authority to require the environmental review process for all high capacity well permit applications, including those for replacement, reconstruction and transfer of ownership of existing high capacity well permits.
Prior to the Court’s decision, the DNR used the environmental review process for new high capacity well permit applications that met one of the following conditions: 1) may impact the water supply of a public water utility; 2) may impact an outstanding resource water body or an exception resource water body; 3) is to be used to withdraw water for bottling purposes and; 4) may impact larger scale springs.
Due to the Court’s decision, the DNR lacks certainty of how to regulate farmers who need to repair or replace an existing well, or want to purchase or sell land with a high capacity well.
SB 239 clarifies state law by directing the DNR to restore certainty to previously issued high capacity well permits. SB 239 states that no additional approval is needed for an existing 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 of a high capacity well as part of the sale of land where the well is located.
“It should be noted that in these instances no new water withdrawals are being approved; but rather, existing wells are either being repaired for continued use, replaced for continued use or being owned by a different person for the same use,” Zimmerman said.
“It is important for farmers with high capacity wells to have financial and regulatory certainty, and to know they will be able to water their livestock and irrigate their crops as previously approved by the DNR,” Zimmerman said.