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Wisconsin DNR Considers Regional Restrictions On Manure Spreading

Marking First Time Agency Has Considered 'Targeted Standards'

manure spreading
Kelli Cardinal/AP Photo

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is considering adopting regional restrictions on manure spreading. If the proposal is accepted, it would mark the first time the agency has considered adopting rules that vary by geographic location.

The targeted area currently being considered is comprised of 15 eastern Wisconsin counties. They include: Brown, Calumet, Dodge, Door, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha.

Much of the area is in the karst topography, a type of landscape characterized by shallow topsoil and porous limestone bedrock.

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At a hearing in Green Bay, that was livestreamed across the state, Mary Anne Lowndes, the section chief of the DNR’s Watershed Runoff, said the rules are targeted to areas with Silurian dolomite bedrock, another name for karst topography.

The proposed rules would ban farmers from spreading manure on areas with less than 2 feet of soil above the bedrock. Before the Green Bay hearing, Lowndes said, “We’re going to estimate nonpoint source performance standards, in this case, targeted to abate nonpoint source pollution in areas of the site with shallow soils overlaying fractured bedrock.”

The proposed rules are aimed at abating well contamination in the area. More than 30 percent of private wells in Kewaunee County are reportedly compromised. The area is also home to several Confined Animal Feeding Operations, which would be affected by the new rules if adopted.

Rob Kiehneau, a farmer in Egg Harbor Door County, has concerns about the proposed changes. Kiehneau owns a dairy farm and milks between 60 and 70 dairy cattle per day.

At the hearing, Kiehneau stated, “This new rule if implemented would vastly impair us from continuing our business at our current location.”

Kiehneau said the farm has been in his family since 1957 and that, “there’s very little land available with more than two feet of soil to bedrock. Our 400 acres we farm consists primarily of approximately 75 to 80 percent of that property is less than two feet to bedrock.”

Mary Ellen Dobbin, a Kewaunee County board member, spoke in favor of the proposed administrative rule change, saying many of her constituents want rules more tailor-made to fit different geographical regions.

“The rule that fits the whole state of Wisconsin, which is what is in place now, is not going to meet the needs of all areas of the state. Kewaunee County is a very sensitive area of the state,” said Dobbin.

Wisconsin’s Dairy Business Association has endorsed the proposed rule change, though it said updated soil maps are needed in order for farmers to know whether or not they will be affected by any alterations.