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Governor’s Pick To Head DNR: Water Quality, CWD Are Top Priorities

Preston Cole Appears Before State Senate Committee

DNR sign
Melissa Ingells/WPR

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary-designee Preston Cole says polluted drinking water is his top concern.

Cole appeared at a hearing before the state Senate’s sporting heritage committee on Thursday. The hearing is a prelude to a committee vote on whether the full Senate should confirm him.

Cole told the committee in his opening remarks that he has heard from senators that they’re concerned about drinking water pollution. He said the issue was their top concern, the issue must be fixed and investing in the science of drinking water quality will move the state toward solutions.

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He said he plans to hire what he called a “science and technology officer” to advise lawmakers at committee hearings. He promised that the position will act as legislators’ “trusted adviser.”

Cole also talked about fighting chronic wasting disease as a priority and said the DNR would continue research into the problem.

Cole didn’t offer any overarching strategies to the committee, instead saying “we’re going to let the science come to us.” He said he hopes there will be federal money in the next farm bill to address the disease.

Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, seemed flummoxed with that answer, asking Cole where the state is going with CWD. He asked rhetorically how Cole was going to stop the disease from spreading but didn’t press him for an answer.

Cole did say that he believes state agriculture officials should manage deer farm fencing. Right now the DNR regulates the farms’ fences and the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection regulates everything inside the fences.

Gov. Tony Evers’ state budget doesn’t offer any new CWD policies or strategies.