By Hubert Hoffman | Guest Contributor
On April 5, state Senator Jennifer Shilling issued a press release pertaining to Senate Bill 76 (SB-76) claiming, in big bold lettering, “Republicans vote to privatize Wisconsin water.” The reality is the bill relates to: “replacement, reconstruction, and transfer of an approved high capacity well,” not the privatization of Wisconsin water.
First, the word “private” doesn’t appear anywhere in the bill text or the Legislative Reference Bureau analysis of the bill. Second, the bill doesn’t undermine the Public Trust Doctrine because the bill doesn’t change current law requiring DNR oversight of the application or permitting process for a high capacity well.
What the bill does is allow those individuals and businesses that already have a high capacity well to repair or replace the well, should it become damaged, without needing to pay additional taxes and fees. Repairing a damaged well quickly and correctly is the best way to preserve ground water quality. Owners must notify the DNR of any work done on the well and any repair or replacement must meet all conditions of the originally permitted well. The bill also allows property owners, who sell their property, to transfer the well permit the new property owner without additional taxes and fees.
SB-76 also adds a requirement that the DNR to do hydrology testing in parts of Adams, Green Lake, Juneau, Marquette, Portage, Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago, and Wood counties. Knowing how the water flows, where the water flows, and how quickly is passes through the soil is something that will help the DNR to better understand and manage Wisconsin water quality. Yet, Senator Shilling stands in opposition to a bill that will help us all learn about our environment.
Shilling’s office put out the press release knowing that many Wisconsin residents wouldn’t have the time or ability look at what the legislation says. It is embarrassing when legislators get caught putting out statements intended to deceive or mislead as that is what truly undermines the public trust.