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Assembly, Senate High-Capacity Well Bills Now In Sync
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 03/06/2017

State lawmakers appear to be on the same page when it comes to passing new high-capacity well regulations in Wisconsin. Last week, Assembly Republicans introduced a similar bill to the Senate's version of the measure, which was unveiled a month earlier.

The larger chamber did cut a provision from their bill that would have strengthened legal protections for homeowners whose drinking water becomes contaminated.

As part of the current pair of bills, existing wells will not need to go through a re-application process if its owners want to replace them or if they are sold to a different party. The legislation also calls for a study of receding surface water in the Central Sands region, which many locals claim is caused by large farms withdrawing too much water from the ground.

State agricultural groups are mostly supportive of new well legislation. Tamas Houlihan of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers says the proposal will protect and preserve Wisconsin farmers' investment in existing wells for irrigation and other farm uses.

"This bill will provide certainty for Wisconsin farmers who rely on irrigation to grow vegetables and feed the world," Houlihan said. "It will maintain compliance with Wisconsin's highest environmental standards for repaired, replaced and reconstructed wells and will provide valuable data for researchers."

As Wisconsin Ag Connection reported last summer, the DNR revised its policies regarding high-capacity well applications after Attorney General Brad Schimel issued an opinion that concluded that the agecy doesn't have the legal right to regulate such wells based on how they could potentially effect nearby bodies of water. The issue was brought to light after the DNR placed a condition on a large dairy farm's permit that required on-going groundwater monitoring to make sure the operation's large withdrawals of water didn't effect local water tables.

The Assembly Agriculture Committee is now in the process of reviewing AB 105, while the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform takes up SB 76.

High-capacity wells are defined as wells that can that pump at least 70 gallons of water per minute.

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