2013 - 2014 LEGISLATURE
February 3, 2014 - Introduced by Senators Cowles,
Farrow, Petrowski, Grothman
and Darling, cosponsored by Representatives Loudenbeck, Krug,
Spiros, Bies, Marklein, Czaja, Ballweg, Tauchen, Thiesfeldt, LeMahieu,
Weininger, Kaufert and Klenke. Referred to Committee on Government
Operations, Public Works, and Telecommunications.
1An Act to amend
283.63 (1) (am) and 283.63 (4); and to create
283.13 (7) and 2
283.16 of the statutes; relating to: adaptive management plans for reducing
3discharges of phosphorus and total suspended solids to the waters of the state
4and a statewide variance to the water quality standard for phosphorus for
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
This bill provides for a variance to limits on the amount of phosphorus allowed
in discharges to water bodies that contain excessive amounts of phosphorus, if
conditions specified in the bill are met. The bill also authorizes the use of adaptive
management, explained below, to comply with water quality standards for
phosphorus and total suspended solids.
Water quality standards and effluent limitations
The federal Clean Water Act allows the federal Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) to delegate responsibilities under the act, including issuing
wastewater discharge permits for point sources (factories and sewage treatment
plants, for example), to a state if the state's laws comply with requirements in the
act. EPA has delegated these responsibilities to this state.
Consistent with the Clean Water Act, current state law requires the
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to promulgate rules setting water quality
standards for the waters of the state. The standards include criteria for specific
pollutants. A criterion may be narrative (describing the characteristics that the
water should have) or numeric (specifying the maximum concentration of a
Under current federal and state law, wastewater discharge permits include
restrictions, called effluent limitations, on the amount of various pollutants that may
be discharged. One type of effluent limitation is applicable without regard to the
quality of the receiving water body and is based on the level of control achieved using
treatment technology that is reasonably available (considering cost, among other
things) for limiting the discharge of a pollutant. If this kind of limitation (called a
technology based effluent limitation) is not sufficient to ensure that a water quality
standard for a pollutant will be met in a particular water body, permits for sources
that discharge into the water body must generally contain effluent limitations for the
pollutant that are more stringent than the technology based effluent limitation and
that are designed to ensure that the water quality standard will be met. This kind
of limitation is called a water quality based effluent limitation.
Current law allows DNR to grant a permittee a variance to a water quality
based effluent limitation if the permittee demonstrates that complying with the
effluent limitation is not feasible for one of several reasons, including that applying
the effluent limitation to the source would cause substantial and widespread adverse
social and economic impacts in the area where the source is located. The term of a
variance may not exceed five years. A variance may be renewed, but only for as long
as it remains infeasible for the source to comply with the water quality based effluent
limitation. Variances are subject to review and approval by EPA.
Phosphorus water quality rules
In 2010, DNR promulgated rules adding a numerical water quality criterion to
the water quality standard for phosphorus. Some water bodies in Wisconsin do not
comply with the water quality standard for phosphorus. DNR's rules include some
options for sources that might have difficulty complying with a water quality based
effluent limitation for phosphorus, including extended schedules for achieving
The options in the phosphorus rule also include a variance to water quality
based effluent limitations for stabilization pond and lagoon wastewater treatment
systems, which DNR indicates primarily serve small communities and small
industries. A permittee with one of these systems must provide information showing
that compliance would cause substantial and widespread adverse social and
economic impacts in the area where the system is located. If the variance is granted,
the permit must include an effluent limitation based on the best past performance
of the source with regard to phosphorus discharges and a requirement that the
permittee investigate techniques that would enable compliance with a water quality
based effluent limitation.
Statewide variance for phosphorus discharges
This bill requires the Department of Administration (DOA), in consultation
with DNR, to consider the costs of compliance with water quality based effluent
limitations for phosphorus by sources that cannot achieve compliance without
making major facility upgrades. A major facility upgrade is the addition of new
treatment equipment and a new treatment process. If DOA determines, after public
notice and consideration of public comments, that compliance by these sources is not
feasible because it would cause substantial and widespread adverse social and
economic impacts on a statewide basis, the bill provides for a variance to a water
quality based effluent limitation for phosphorus for a source that was covered by a
permit before the phosphorus water quality standard took effect if the permittee
certifies that the source cannot comply with the effluent limitation without a major
Under the bill, if a permittee receives the variance, DNR must include in the
the permit interim effluent limitations for phosphorus that are generally lower in
each successive permit term and must require the source to achieve compliance with
the water quality based effluent limitation by the end of the fourth permit term for
which DNR approves the variance (generally within 20 years). DNR must also
require the implementation of the permittee's choice of three kinds of measures to
reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the waters of the state.
The measures from which a permittee that receives the variance may choose
are constructing a project or implementing a plan, approved by DNR, to reduce
phosphorus pollution from other sources in the basin in which the source is located
in an amount equal to the number of pounds by which the amount of phosphorus
discharged by the point source exceeds a target amount specified in the bill; having
another person construct such a project or implement such a plan, also approved by
DNR; or making payments to counties in the basin to provide cost sharing for projects
that enable agricultural sources of nonpoint phosphorus pollution (runoff) to comply
with state standards for reducing runoff or for staff to implement projects that reduce
runoff. The payments are initially $50 times the number of pounds by which the
amount of phosphorus discharged by the point source exceeds a target amount
specified in the bill. DNR adjusts the amount per pound based on increases in the
consumer price index. A county is not required to accept these payments.
If DOA initially determines that compliance with water quality based effluent
limitations for phosphorus by sources that cannot achieve compliance without
making major facility upgrades is infeasible, the bill requires DOA, in consultation
with DNR, to review the determination every five years. If DOA finds that the
determination is no longer accurate, the variance terminates. As part of this review,
the bill also requires DOA to determine whether cost-effective technology is
available that would allow sources to comply with more stringent interim limitations
than those specified in the bill. If so, DNR must include those more stringent interim
limitations in permits when they are renewed.
Adaptive management is a method for achieving compliance with a water
quality standard in a water body that contains excessive amounts of a pollutant.
Under adaptive management, a permittee who is subject to a water quality based
effluent limitation implements a plan under which the permittee works with others
to reduce the amount of pollution from various point sources and nonpoint sources
and uses information from monitoring, modeling, and other sources to adjust the
plan as needed. The permittee is subject to less restrictive effluent limitations while
the adaptive management plan is being implemented and less restrictive pollutant
limits may continue to apply if the water quality standard is achieved.
The bill authorizes DNR to allow a permittee to use adaptive management to
achieve compliance with the water quality standard for phosphorus or total
suspended solids (particles in the water) and, if it does so, to allow the permittee four
permit terms to achieve compliance.
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:
283.13 (7) of the statutes is created to read:
283.13 (7) Adaptive management.
(a) In this subsection, "adaptive 3
management option" means an approach to achieving compliance with a water 4
quality standard adopted under s. 281.15 or a total maximum daily load under 33
(d) (1) (C) approved by the federal environmental protection agency under 6
which a permittee implements a plan to achieve the water quality standard or total 7
maximum daily load through verifiable reductions in the amount of water pollution 8
from point sources and nonpoint sources, as defined in s. 281.16 (1) (e), in a basin or 9
other area specified by the department and uses monitoring data, modeling, and 10
other appropriate information to adjust the plan if needed to achieve compliance.
(b) The department may authorize a permittee to use an adaptive management 12
option to achieve compliance with the water quality standard for phosphorus or an 13
approved total maximum daily load for total suspended solids, and if it does so, the 14
department may specify a date under sub. (5) that provides 4 permit terms for the 15
permittee to comply with its water quality based effluent limitation for phosphorus 16
or total suspended solids.
283.16 of the statutes is created to read:
1283.16 Statewide variance for phosphorus. (1) Definitions.
In this 2
(a) "Basin" means the drainage area identified by an 8-digit hydrologic unit 4
code, as determined by the U.S. Geological Survey.
(b) "Category" means a class or category of point sources specified by the 6
department under s. 283.13 (1).
(d) "Existing source" means a point source that was covered by a permit on 8
December 1, 2010.
(e) "Major facility upgrade" means the addition of new treatment equipment 10
and a new treatment process.
(g) "Nonpoint source" has the meaning given in s. 281.16 (1) (e).
(h) "Target value" means the number of pounds of phosphorus that would be 13
discharged from a point source during a year if the average concentration of 14
phosphorus in the effluent discharged by the point source during the year was 0.2 15
milligrams per liter.
(i) "Water quality based effluent limitation" means an effluent limitation under 17
s. 283.13 (5), including an effluent limitation based on a total maximum daily load 18
under 33 USC 1313
(d) (1) (C) approved by the federal environmental protection 19
20(2) Initial determination concerning the water quality standard for
(a) The department of administration, in consultation with the 22
department of natural resources, shall determine whether attaining the water 23
quality standard for phosphorus, adopted under s. 281.15, through compliance with 24
water quality based effluent limitations by point sources that cannot achieve 25
compliance without major facility upgrades is not feasible because it would cause
substantial and widespread adverse social and economic impacts on a statewide 2
(b) The department of administration shall include all of the following in its 4
determination under par. (a):
1. A calculation of the statewide cost of compliance with water quality based 6
effluent limitations for phosphorus by point sources that cannot achieve compliance 7
without major facility upgrades.
2. A calculation of the statewide per household cost for water pollution control 9
by publicly owned treatment works that cannot achieve compliance with water 10
quality based effluent limitations for phosphorus without major facility upgrades, 11
including the projected costs of compliance with those water quality based effluent 12
limitations, and a calculation of the percentage of median household income the per 13
household cost represents.
4. A determination of whether the cost of compliance with water quality based 15
effluent limitations for phosphorus by point sources that cannot achieve compliance 16
without major facility upgrades would cause substantial adverse social and economic 17
impacts on a statewide basis.
5. A determination of whether the cost of compliance with water quality based 19
effluent limitations for phosphorus by point sources that cannot achieve compliance 20
without major facility upgrades would cause widespread adverse social and 21
economic impacts on a statewide basis.
(c) The department of administration shall make a preliminary determination 23
under par. (a) no later than the 60th day after the effective date of this paragraph .... 24
[LRB inserts date]. The department of administration shall provide public notice, 25
through an electronic notification system that it establishes or selects, of its
preliminary determination and shall provide the opportunity for public comment on 2
the preliminary determination for at least 30 days following the public notice.
(d) The department of administration shall consider any public comments in 4
making its final determination under par. (a) and shall make the final determination 5
no later than the 30th day after the end of the public comment period.
(e) The department of administration shall send a notice that describes its final 7
determination under par. (a) to the legislative reference bureau for publication in the 8