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DNR Revises High Capacity Well Review Process
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 06/03/2020

Now that Attorney General Josh Kaul issued a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources withdrawing a 2016 opinion by his predecessor concerning the agency's authority to consider the environmental impacts of certain high capacity well applications, the DNR has officially change its written policy on the matter.

In a news release, the natural resources department noted: 'upon receipt of a high capacity well or dewatering application, the DNR water use program completes the groundwater quantity review, and if the well is potable, the public engineering program conducts an engineering review.'

As Wisconsin Ag Connection reported in May, Kaul informed DNR Secretary Preston Cole that he is withdrawing an opinion by former AG Brad Schimel, who concluded that the DNR does not have the legal right to regulate such wells based on how they could potentially effect nearby bodies of water. Kaul explained that two court orders have undermined the legal analysis of that 2016 opinion, so therefore it is no longer valid.

The issue was brought to light after the DNR placed a condition on Kewaunee County 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 farm's owners felt the added conditions went beyond the DNR's authority, so they appealed. That prompted a different ruling by the DOJ, which stated that such actions would violate Wisconsin law.

The matter has since went through various court hearings and was even referred to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2019.

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