Saturday , 18 November 2017

May 17, 2017 E-News

REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS SEEK TO EASE PHOSPHORUS REGULATIONS– A group of 31 Republican state lawmakers are calling for the federal government to help ease regulations of phosphorus discharge into lakes and streams, saying complying with the standards are too expensive for small municipalities. The standards for phosphorus discharge, which can cause unnatural weed and algae growth in public waterways, were adopted in 2010 by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board after eight years of scientific review and input from environmental, agricultural and municipal groups. The state was among the first in the nation to adopt specific, measurable standards for how much phosphorus could be released into state waters. Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted the state a waiver in response to requests from Republican lawmakers that will allow manufacturers and sewage treatment plants to be exempt from the standards for 10 years if they pay fees to help cut pollution that rain carries off farm fields, which is one of the main sources of phosphorus pollution. In their letter to the state’s congressional delegation, the 31 Republicans state that while the creation of a phosphorus pollution standard was “pragmatic, the real-world application of arbitrary numeric limitations has placed significant strain on communities throughout the state of Wisconsin.”

WAUKESHA OFFICIALS: LAKE MICHIGAN WATER DRAW WILL HELP THE ROOT – With the approval of its request for Lake Michigan water cemented last month by the Great Lakes Compact Council, the City of Waukesha is hoping to ease Racinians’ concerns about the upcoming diversion. Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak and the city’s mayor, Shawn Reilly, met with The Journal Times Editorial Board on Monday to, in their words, help clear up some misconceptions about the diversion plan and the impacts it will and will not have on the lake and the Root River. The main message Duchniak and Reilly have for Racine residents and others in Racine County who use the Root River, or live along it, is this: The treated wastewater Waukesha plans to send down the Root will only serve to help the river. According to a handout produced by Waukesha officials, the 8.2 million gallons of treated wastewater the city plans to discharge to the Root on a daily basis won’t have PCBs, and will lower the concentration of phosphorus and suspended solids currently in the river.

LA CROSSE COUNTY HEALTH OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO FIND CONTAMINATED PRIVATE WELLS – La Crosse County health officials continue to find increased levels of nitrates in private wells. Last month, the La Crosse County Health Department notified 2,000 households their private wells may be contaminated. Since then, 451 wells have been tested for nitrates, with 29 percent showing nitrate levels over the allowable 10 parts per million. Carol Drury, environmental health and lab manager at the county health department, said most of the 130 that tested positive were between 10 and 14 ppm. “We actually have seen some in the higher ranges, getting up where they’re over 20 parts per million, which can be an issue,” Drury said. Drury said 448 were also tested for bacteria, and 7 percent came back positive for coliform bacteria.

LAWMAKER SUGGESTS POLLUTED WELL WATER IGNORED IN KEWAUNEE CO. – Agriculture is big business in Wisconsin. But some suggest all that money may have state officials overlooking a health concern. Cow manure and human waste are showing up in the groundwater at an alarming rate in Kewaunee County, according to an ongoing USDA study. The problem with contaminated groundwater and in turn private wells has residents and environmentalists wanting answers. “I think we have to get legislators to do what’s right for the people,” said environmentalist Jodi Parins. “It’s up to policy makers to take that data and say where’s the cutoff,” said Mark Borchardt, the USDA microbiologist compiling the data on the groundwater study. “The rules — statewide rules — just don’t protect our water here,” admitted State Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, who represents Kewaunee County. Kitchens is well aware of the contaminated wells at more than 60 percent of the homes that have been tested in the USDA study. Kitchens recently introduced legislation aimed at helping homeowners with contaminated wells get loans to drill new wells. It’s called the Clean Water Access Bill. It doesn’t, however, address the source of the problem.

ONE-THIRD OF WISCONSIN CAFOS OPERATING UNDER EXPIRED PERMITS– Around a third of Wisconsin’s large-scale animal farms, known as concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, are currently operating under expired permits, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website. Many of the permits expired in 2016. Operating a farm with an expired permit is not an uncommon or illegal practice, but it is a source of frustration for farmers and resident concerned about oversight. As the number of large farms has increased, the agency says they have seen more expired permits, but staffing levels haven’t kept pace with the growing workload. Under state and federal rules, CAFO permits are issued every five years. Those rules allow permits to remain in effect until they’re reissued, according to John Holevoet, director of government affairs with the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association. “It’s not as though these farms don’t have a permit. They have a permit. They’re 100 percent legally bound by their permit even though the initial timeframe is over,” Holevoet said. “Until they have a new one, they must follow everything in that original permit.”

AFTER SCHIMEL STEPPED IN, WELL PERMITS MOVED FORWARD – One year ago, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel issued an opinion that led the state Department of Natural Resources to approve almost 200 stalled high-capacity well permits. One of those permits involved a well near Pleasant Lake in Waushara County. People who own homes along Pleasant Lake have learned a lot over the years about high-capacity wells, which are responsible for dropping the lake’s water levels by an average of a foot-and-a-half, according to research by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. So when Schimel released his opinion on wells in May 2016, it caught Pleasant Lake homeowners’ attention immediately. “We knew exactly when the opinion came out,” said Tom Kunes, president of the Pleasant Lake Land Association. “We absolutely understand the impact of it. And it’s not good.”

GRANITE PEAK DRAWS WATER WITH LITTLE OVERSIGHT – Granite Peak Ski Area drew more than 135 million gallons of water during the 2016-2017 ski season, with little oversight from state regulators and with an unknown effect on the environment, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin has learned. The news organization obtained records on the Rib Mountain ski area’s water use as local activists expressed concerns about plans to expand both the Granite Peak water intake system and its overall number of ski runs. The water is taken from a tributary of the Big Rib River and pumped into holding ponds near the base of Rib Mountain. From there, it’s pumped up the hill and into snow guns, where it’s frozen and sprayed on the skiing and snowboarding runs when the weather doesn’t provide enough natural snow. It takes about 1 million gallons of water converted to snow per acre to coat all of the runs, according to Peter Biermeier, a consultant hired by Granite Peak to manage its expansion project. But Granite Peak’s system for monitoring its water intake is largely unregulated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

STATES THAT VOTED FOR TRUMP AMONG HARDEST HIT BY PROPOSED CUTS– The three traditionally Democratic states that flipped for President Trump, giving him the election, would be among the hardest hit by grant programs Trump now wants to eliminate. Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania could lose more than 11% of discretionary federal grant funding if Congress goes along with Trump’s proposed cuts, according to an analysis from The Pew Charitable Trusts. In Trump’s first formal budget proposal released in March, he seeks to “redefine the proper role” of the federal government by dramatically reducing its involvement in many domestic areas while boosting investments in security. The cuts include eliminating at least 20 grant programs important to states.

FRAC SAND INDUSTRY BACK IN BUSINESS IN WESTERN WISCONSIN– Like the ghost towns left behind after the California gold rush fizzled, many of the frac sand mines dotting western Wisconsin sat dormant a year ago. Piles of golden sand sat untouched next to stationary rail cars, with skeleton crews stopping by only occasionally to check on the idle facilities. Through the slump, company officials insisted the frac sand industry would bounce back. “The industry was fairly dormant for a while, but now it has reawakened,” Syverson said last week. “We are running pretty much full time, back to 24 hours a day,” said Sharon Masek, manager of mine planning and industrial relations for Superior Silica Sands in Wisconsin. “We’re pretty much back to our peak levels of employment.” That means employment at Superior Silica’s five mines in Barron and Chippewa counties has reached close to 200, up from about 70 last year when two of the facilities operated part time and two were completely shut down, Masek said. The company, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is seeking to further boost its western Wisconsin workforce in the coming weeks.

QOUTE– “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”- Groucho Marx

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David Lawrence
WRWA Executive Director
(715) 344-7778

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