Wisconsin Wetlands Bill Eliminates Regulation

Developers, Environmental Groups Clash Over Wetland Regulation Rollback

Bill Would Eliminate State Regulation Of Wisconsin Wetlands

Thursday, December 21, 2017, 3:40pm

By Laurel White [LINK]

Environmental advocates and developers clashed in the state Capitol on Thursday over a proposal that would decrease regulation of wetlands in Wisconsin.

Under the proposal, the state Department of Natural Resources would no longer regulate non-federal wetlands. As a result, developers would be able to build on those lands without a permit.

Non-federal wetlands make up about 20 percent of the wetlands in Wisconsin – that amounts to about one million acres.

A number of business and development groups, including Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, support the measure, arguing current state regulations are too burdensome.

“I don’t think anybody wants to hurt the ecology of the state of Wisconsin, but you can’t do it at the total cost of business of business every day,” said Howard Kamerer, president and CEO of WOW Logistics, a logistics and warehousing company.

Kamerer said his company is in the state permitting process for construction on two commercial warehouses in Little Chute and Marshfield, both of which have wetlands on their sites. The process is taking months and Kamerer argues it’s too burdensome.

Sponsors of the bill argue it strikes a balance between development and conservation concerns.

“Wisconsin is a regulatory outlier when it comes to the amount and breadth of regulation that we have in the permitting process concerning isolated, non-federal wetlands,” said Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton.

Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, is the bill’s sponsor in the state Assembly.

A number of environmental groups, including the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, argue the plan would degrade water quality, cause flooding, and harm animal habitats.

“The bill was introduced on the commonly-mistaken premises that non-federal wetlands are low quality and limited to damp spots in the middle of farm fields, and that those areas have no value,” said Erin O’Brien, policy program director at the association, in prepared testimony.

Alan Shook, president of the Waukesha County Conservation Alliance, said some state regulations of wetlands do go too far, but he believes eliminating the state regulations entirely is a bad idea.

“This bill, in trying to solve these problems, is like someone taking an elephant gun to kill an ant,” Shook said.

The bill has yet to be voted on in committee.

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