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Walker Signs Bill Easing High-Capacity Well Regulations

Sen. Mark Miller: Bill Goes Against State Constitution

Irrigation system
AgriLife Today CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Thursday relaxing regulations on high-capacity wells used by vegetable growers, dairies along with other large businesses.

The new law means well owners won’t need to have their permits reviewed if their systems are sold or need to be repaired.

Critics, like Democratic State Sen. Mark Miller, of Monona, say the action goes against the state constitution. Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine puts water in the hands of citizens, Miller said, and the new law “privatizes” water.

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Miller also questioned why Walker didn’t hold a public bill signing.

“If the governor was proud of this bill, he’d do it out in public in front of the cameras, but he’s not doing that,” Miller said. “He’s doing it behind closed doors so it gets as little attention as possible.”

The bill does direct the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to monitor four “designated study areas” in central Wisconsin to monitor groundwater levels, along with lakes and streams.

Critics of the bill opposed by environmentalists and Democrats say high-capacity wells can lower levels on bodies of water.

Asked about Miller’s comments Thursday, Walker said, “He’s wrong, simple.”

“I think we need to make sure that the people who grow food in this state have access to the water they need to provide the food we need to stay alive, not only in Wisconsin but around the world,” Walker added.

The governor said he doesn’t believe it goes against the Public Trust Doctrine.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from Gov. Scott Walker.

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