The Little Plover River is sourced from freshwater springs in central Wisconsin. It was once a class A trout stream.
Until the 1970s, the Little Plover never ran dry, even in drought years. Then high-capacity wells, put in to irrigate the area’s many potato farms, took their toll on local groundwater.
By 2006, the unlimited amounts of water being pulled off by high-capacity wells put the Little Plover River on America’s top 10 endangered rivers list.
That’s not the only body of water in that area that is suffering. Several of the lakes in Waushara County have been affected by high capacity wells, too. Property value has plummeted because docks no longer reach into water.
A high-capacity well has a pump capacity of over 100,000 gallons per day.
When the wells in central Wisconsin were permitted, there were few requests for that level of groundwater use in our state. Now, because of frac-sand mining and the growth of mega-dairies in Wisconsin, there are over 150 new applications for high capacity wells. Use of water by the potato industry is scant compared to the draws by these newcomers to Wisconsin.
Frac-sand mining uses between 450,000 and 2 million gallons per day.
Instead of learning from the Little Plover and lakes in Waushara County, Republican Sen. Neal Kedzie sponsored Senate Bill 302. It’s a horrible bill that will deplete our water in unfathomable quantities.
The bill also prohibits the DNR from considering the cumulative impacts of multiple water users when making decisions about our water supplies. As the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters (WLCV) puts it, the bill is “death for Wisconsin’s water by 1,000 straws.”
We all need water. Seventy percent of all Wisconsin drinking water comes from groundwater.
We all need to pay attention to this devastating bill, and to its companion, Senate Bill 349. SB349 comes from Sen. Tom Tiffany, the same author of the open-pit mining bill. SB349 takes away all authority from local communities to monitor polluters and to hold them accountable.
“Citizens rely on their local authorities to be the first line of defense in protecting their air and water,” the WLCV says. “This is especially true at a time when the state’s enforcement of public health and natural resource laws has declined dramatically. In recent years, enforcement actions against illegal polluters have dropped 55 percent, from an average of 516 notices per year to just 233 at the state level.”
Extreme political positions and posturing keep people, both voters and elected officials, from hearing the truth and listening to each other. Expert geologists, groundwater specialists, other scientists and the people who have lived, first-hand, with the loss of water from unregulated use went unheeded by the authors of these two bills.
When Gov. Scott Walker said, “Wisconsin is open for business,” we had no idea that our water resources would be for sale.
In the Capitol there are continue efforts to end the 127-year-old law that no more than 640 acres of land can be held by foreign interests.
China has been named as the main country knocking at Wisconsin’s door. Whether they are wanting the mineral rights or our farmland is uncertain.
Selling our land and its resources is a bad idea no matter what. It is especially bad when you look at China’s horrific environmental record.
What will it be like to live here if local communities are short of water? What will it be like if our air and water quality is compromised and we have no ability to hold polluters accountable?
We all need to do what we can for Wisconsin, before it’s too late.