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Group: DNR Should Reject A.G.'s Opinion on High-Capacity Wells
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 06/02/2016

A central Wisconsin advocacy group is calling on the Department of Natural Resources to sidestep the conclusions of Attorney General Brad Schimel's recent opinion on high-capacity wells. In a letter to DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, the Friends of the Central Sands said they are 'highly alarmed and disappointed' by the AG's May 10 written opinion that state agencies cannot impose permit conditions that are not expressly laid out in state statute.

Specifically, Schimel concluded that the DNR does not have the legal right to regulate high-capacity wells after the agency put a condition on a large dairy farm's permit which required on-going groundwater monitoring to make sure the operation's large withdrawals of water didn't effect local water tables.

"We write now to make you aware of legal and factual deficiencies in the Attorney General opinion, and to urge [the DNR] to reject the opinion in exercising its permitting authority," said FCS Board President Bob Clarke. "The Attorney General opinion neglects established precedent in reaching its conclusions."

The group has been battling with the owners of the Richfield Dairy in court since 2011 over its well water permits. The Adams County dairy operation is owned by Milk Source LLC of Kaukauna, which has also faced resistance when building the nearby New Chester Dairy.

Clarke, who claims his group is dedicated to education and outreach about environmental resources in Wisconsin's Central Sands area, said that if the DNR lacks authority to consider the cumulative impacts because certain terms were not used in the state statutes, than the agency would be creating a gap in public trust enforcement.

He also feels the opinion does not specify who will protect water resources from the effects of high-capacity well pumping if the DNR cannot implement public trust doctrine duty.

High-capacity wells are defined as wells that can that pump at least 70 gallons of water per minute. A spokesperson for the DNR recently stated that the agency is working on plans to carry out the Attorney General's opinion.

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