Updates on Wisconsin Water Issues, March 2019

Mar 13, 2019 | Citizen Advocacy, Water Policy | 1 comment

Governor Evers’ budget was released at the end of February. As you may know, this is far from the final state budget. It is likely that the legislature will use the last two-year budget as the basis for their budget proposal this year. Their version may or may not include items from Governor Evers’ budget.

Take Action Today

Soon, the legislature will hold public hearings on their version of the state budget. We encourage River Alliance members, friends and partner organizations to attend. Watch our blog, e-newsletter and social media for more information on the dates and times for these hearings.

Make your voice heard in the budget process. Contact your elected officials to let them know that providing support to the DNR—and funding programs that improve and protect water quality—are important to you.

Find your elected officials by entering your address here.

Ask the Legislature to Include these Priority Items

Here are a few of the top water conservation items in the Governor’s budget that should be included in the legislature’s budget:

Bringing Science Back to the DNR

  • Funding and position authority for five additional science positions to increase the capacity for scientific research within the department.
  • Elevating the current Office of Applied Sciences to create the Bureau of Natural Resources Science. The bureau director would serve as the science advisor to the Department of Natural Resources secretary.
  • The increase in scientific research staff includes positions to develop a model to identify and prioritize sites with likely per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) contamination. There is also funding to conduct a survey of local and state emergency responders to determine the level of use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam.

Funding to Address Nonpoint Pollution

  • $6.5 million in environmental fund-supported general obligation bonding authority for nonpoint source pollution abatement via the Targeted Runoff Management (TRM) program at the Wisconsin DNR. The TRM program provides municipalities with financial assistance for infrastructure projects to reduce nonpoint source pollution.
  • The Governor also recommends providing $400,000 in each year for nonpoint source pollution abatement – targeted runoff management grants.
  • $4 million in environmental fund-supported general obligation bonding authority for urban nonpoint source and stormwater grant program, and the municipal flood control program.
  • $10 million in bonding authority for the Soil and Water Resource Management (SWRM) program at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. (SWRM provides farmers with financial assistance to reduce nonpoint pollution with infrastructure projects.)
  • While there is a $1.4 million increase in funding for county conservation staff, more is needed to have enough staffing in each county to implement the non-point runoff and other essential programs at the local level.
  • Increase the producer-led watershed grants from $250,000 to $750,000.

TMDL Funding (Phosphorus Reduction) 

Local groups like the Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards have been waiting for more than seven years to have a completed Wisconsin River Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan to implement. There are several other TMDLs in the state that are complete and need support to implement to reduce the input of phosphorus into our waters. To address this, the Governor’s budget recommends:

  • Increasing position authority to provide 4.0 FTE project positions to facilitate implementation of water quality restoration and improvement plans.
  • Providing additional conservation fund-supported general obligation bonding authority of $4 million to provide grants that facilitate implementation of water quality restoration and improvement plans.

CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) Staff and Fees

Currently, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) fees and the amount of regulatory staffing in Wisconsin are relatively low in comparison to other states. The Governor’s budget recommends:

  • Providing expenditure and position authority to oversee the permitting, inspection and enforcement CAFOs.
  • Increasing annual CAFO fees from $345 to $660 and adding a $3,270 fee every five years when a CAFO’s Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit is approved. (These fee levels bring Wisconsin in line with neighboring states.)
  • These increases would allow for five additional staff for the regulation of CAFOs.

Dam Repair, Reconstruction & Removal

The Governor’s budget recommends:

  • Providing $4 million in GPR-supported general obligation bonds for grants to be used for dam repair, reconstruction and removal projects.

Drinking Water

The Governor’s budget recommends:

  • $40 million in bonding for the replacement of up to 50 percent of the cost to replace lead service lines through the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program. It is estimated that there are 170,000 lead service lines in Wisconsin. The lead service line program would be structured as a forgivable loan.
  • Investing an additional $800,000 in each fiscal year for the well compensation program.
  • Increasing the maximum income limit for eligibility from $64,000/family to $100,000/family.
  • Establishing a hardship program for families making less than the state median household income.
  • Align contamination eligibility standards under the grant program with federal clean water regulations and create a prioritization

Grants for Protecting Rivers and Lakes

The Governor’s budget recommends:

  • $1.5 M increase annually to fund river and lake protection grants.
  • Increasing expenditure authority by $76,600 and one position in each fiscal year to implement the water quality grant program.

Great Lakes Remediation

The Governor’s budget recommends:

  • Providing $25 million in environmental fund-supported general obligation bonding authority for contaminated sediment removal for sites in the Great Lakes or its tributaries that are on Wisconsin’s impaired waters list.

More Information

Use the links below if you’d like to review the budget further:

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Image courtesy Jill M.