2017 - 2018 LEGISLATURE
February 6, 2017 - Introduced by Senators Miller, C. Larson, Bewley, Carpenter,
Erpenbach, Hansen, Johnson, Ringhand, Risser, Shilling, L. Taylor,
Vinehout and Wirch, cosponsored by Representatives Mason,
Anderson, Berceau, Billings, Bowen, Brostoff, Considine, Crowley, Doyle,
Fields, Genrich, Goyke, Hesselbein, Hintz, Kessler, Kolste, Meyers,
Milroy, Ohnstad, Pope, Riemer, Sargent, Sinicki, Spreitzer, Stuck, Subeck,
C. Taylor, Wachs, Young and Zepnick. Referred to Committee on Natural
Resources and Energy.
1An Act to repeal
281.34 (1) (f) and 281.34 (9); to renumber
160.50 (2); to
2renumber and amend
281.34 (7); to amend
20.370 (6) (eg), 281.34 (4) (a) 3., 3
281.34 (5) (a), 281.34 (5) (b) 1. and 2., 281.34 (5) (c), 281.34 (5) (d), 281.34 (5m), 4
281.34 (7) (title), 281.344 (4s) (dm), 281.346 (4s) (dm), 281.346 (12) (a), 281.346 5
(12) (b) and 281.348 (3) (cm); and to create
160.50 (2) (b), 281.34 (1) (er), 281.34 6
(2s), 281.34 (5) (ds), 281.34 (5) (e) 3., 281.34 (7) (a), 281.34 (7) (b) 1. to 5., 281.34 7
(7) (c), 281.341 and 281.346 (8) (cm) of the statutes; relating to: groundwater
8management, approval of high capacity wells, and granting rule-making
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
Groundwater management areas
This bill establishes standards and a process for designating areas in this state
as groundwater management areas. The standards vary depending on whether an
area has a confined aquifer or an unconfined aquifer. An aquifer is a water-bearing
geologic formation. A confined aquifer has above it a layer (of rock, for example)
through which water does not pass easily. An unconfined aquifer does not have such
a layer above it.
The standards for designating an area with a confined aquifer as a groundwater
management area are related to effects that groundwater pumping has in reducing
the level to which water would rise in an open well or in reducing the water level in
wells pumping from the aquifer. The standards for designating an area with an
unconfined aquifer as a groundwater management area are related to reductions in
stream flows caused by pumping and to declines in water tables.
Current law provides for a Groundwater Coordinating Council, consisting of
the secretaries of natural resources, safety and professional services, agriculture,
trade and consumer protection, health services, and transportation, and the
president of the University of Wisconsin System, or their designees; the state
geologist; and a person to represent the governor. This bill requires the GCC to
appoint a subcommittee on groundwater area review (council subcommittee),
consisting of individuals with technical expertise in the area of groundwater science
This bill requires the council subcommittee to examine areas that may qualify
for designation as groundwater management areas and to forward its conclusions to
the GCC. The council subcommittee must first consider three specific areas for
possible designation as groundwater management areas: one area in and adjacent
to Brown County; one area in and adjacent to Waukesha County; and the area known
as the central sands region. A person may petition the Department of Natural
Resources for an area to be designated as a groundwater management area, which
the council subcommittee must then consider. If the council subcommittee forwards
a conclusion that an area qualifies as a groundwater management area and the GCC
agrees with that conclusion, the GCC may recommend that DNR designate the area
as a groundwater management area. If DNR receives such a recommendation from
the GCC, DNR may, by rule, designate the area as a groundwater management area.
After DNR promulgates a rule designating an area as a groundwater
management area, it must establish a date by which it is reasonable to expect that
groundwater conditions in the area will improve to the point that the area will no
longer qualify as a groundwater management area (a target date), and conditions to
balance groundwater consumption and groundwater replenishment so that there
are no significant adverse environmental impacts to surface water or groundwater
(sustainable hydrologic conditions).
This bill requires DNR to develop and adopt a groundwater management plan
for each designated groundwater management area. The groundwater management
plan must be designed to protect surface water and groundwater and to ensure that
by the target date the area no longer qualifies as a groundwater management area.
The groundwater management plan must contain measurable goals, requirements
for reporting to DNR, water conservation measures, and any other provision that
DNR determines is necessary to meet the sustainable hydrologic conditions.
In preparing the groundwater management plan, DNR must appoint and
consult with a technical advisory committee and a citizens advisory committee. The
members of the technical advisory committee must have technical expertise in the
area of groundwater science and management, and the members of the citizens
advisory committee must represent a variety of interested parties in the
groundwater management area, including municipal, agricultural, industrial, and
commercial water users and conservation groups.
After the target date established by DNR for a groundwater management area,
the bill requires the council subcommittee to consider whether the area still qualifies
as a groundwater management area. If the council subcommittee concludes that the
area no longer qualifies as a groundwater management area, it must forward that
conclusion to the GCC. If the GCC agrees that the area no longer qualifies as a
groundwater management area, the GCC may recommend that DNR rescind the
designation. If the GCC makes that recommendation, DNR may rescind the
designation by repealing the rule designating the area as a groundwater
High capacity wells
Environmental review of proposed high capacity wells
Under current law, a person may not construct a high capacity well without an
approval from DNR. A high capacity well is a well that, together with other wells
on the same property, has the capacity to withdraw more than 100,000 gallons of
water per day.
This bill requires an applicant for approval of a high capacity well to publish
a notice of the application in a newspaper, identifying the owner and the location of
Current law requires DNR to conduct an environmental review of applications
for approval of a high capacity well that is located in an area within 1,200 feet of a
trout stream or exceptional resource waters (a groundwater protection area); a high
capacity well with a high water loss, in which less than 5 percent of the water
withdrawn is returned after use to the basin from which it is withdrawn; and a high
capacity well that may have a significant adverse impact on a qualifying spring.
This bill eliminates the environmental review requirement relating to springs,
and instead requires DNR to conduct an environmental review of an application for
approval of a high capacity well that may have a significant adverse impact on waters
of the state.
Under current law, if DNR determines, while conducting an environmental
review of a proposed well that meets one of the criteria listed above, that an
environmental impact report must be conducted for the proposed well, DNR must
generally include conditions in the well approval to ensure that it does not cause
significant adverse environmental impact. If it is not possible to ensure that, DNR
must deny the application. If a proposed well will be used to provide a public water
supply and DNR determines that there is no reasonable alternative location for the
well, DNR must include in the approval conditions to ensure that the environmental
impact of the well is balanced by the public benefit of the well. Current law states
that these conditions include conditions relating to the location, depth, pumping
capacity, rate of flow, and ultimate use of the well.
This bill specifically includes monitoring as one of the potential conditions that
may be included in such an approval. This bill also provides that, in any high
capacity well approval, DNR may require the well owner to implement a monitoring
program to evaluate the impacts of the well, and may modify the approval based on
the results of that monitoring program.
Current law provides that a high capacity well approval, or application for
approval, cannot be challenged based on DNR's lack of consideration of the
cumulative impacts of the proposed well and existing wells. This bill requires DNR,
when considering whether a high capacity well may have a significant adverse
environmental impact on waters of the state, to consider the cumulative impacts of
that high capacity well together with existing withdrawals.
Under current law, a high capacity well approval generally remains in effect
indefinitely, unless modified or rescinded by DNR. This bill provides that an
approval issued after the effective date of the bill may not remain in effect for more
than ten years. An approval issued prior to the effective date of the bill remains in
effect for a longer period, depending on how long before the effective date of the bill
it was issued.
High capacity wells in groundwater management areas
Under this bill, after DNR develops a groundwater management plan for a
groundwater management area, DNR may not approve a high capacity well in the
groundwater management area unless the high capacity well is consistent with the
groundwater management plan.
This bill also requires DNR, after it develops a groundwater management plan,
to review approvals for high capacity wells in the groundwater management area
that were issued before the plan went into effect. The bill authorizes DNR to modify
these approvals to ensure that they are consistent with the groundwater
Fees for certain withdrawals
Current law imposes an annual fee of $125 on a person whose water supply
system has the capacity to withdraw an average of 100,000 gallons per day in any
30-day period from the waters of the state. This bill increases that annual fee to
DNR has also established, by rule, water use fees for users who withdraw more
than 50,000,000 gallons per year from the Great Lakes basin. This bill directs DNR
to establish such fees for users who withdraw more than 50,000,000 gallons per year
from waters of the state.
This bill also requires DNR to include water conservation requirements in the
approvals, required under current law, for certain surface water withdrawals, if the
withdrawal is in a groundwater management area, and requires those conservation
requirements to be consistent with the groundwater management plan for the
groundwater management area.
For further information see the state and local fiscal estimate, which will be
printed as an appendix to this bill.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
20.370 (6) (eg) of the statutes is amended to read:
(eg) Groundwater mitigation and local assistance.
All moneys 3
received under s. 281.34 not appropriated under sub. (4) (cg) or (ch) for mitigation 4
under s. 281.34 (8) (d) and (9) (d) and funding to local governmental units under s.
5281.34 (9) (b)
160.50 (2) of the statutes is renumbered 160.50 (2) (a).
160.50 (2) (b) of the statutes is created to read:
(b) The groundwater coordinating council shall create a 9
subcommittee on groundwater area review. The subcommittee shall be composed of 10
individuals with technical expertise in the area of groundwater science and 11
281.34 (1) (er) of the statutes is created to read:
(er) “Significant adverse environmental impact" means alteration 14
of groundwater levels, groundwater discharge, surface water levels, surface water 15
discharge, groundwater temperature, surface water temperature, groundwater 16
chemistry, surface water chemistry, or other factors to the extent that those 17
alterations cause significant degradation of environmental quality, including 18
biological and ecological aspects of the affected water resource.
281.34 (1) (f) of the statutes is repealed.
281.34 (2s) of the statutes is created to read: