Both Gov. Tony Evers and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) have recently announced initiatives to address water quality in Wisconsin. Evers’s plan is in the form of specific budget and policy items, whereas Vos has created a task force to gather input and make recommendations to improve water quality in Wisconsin.
After declaring 2019 the Year of Clean Drinking Water in his State of the State address, Evers announced several water quality proposals on Feb. 11 and Feb. 13, with a total price tag of over $70 million.
In the Department of Trade, Agriculture & Consumer Protection, Evers is proposing $10 million in soil and water resource management bonding, which provides cost sharing grants to farmers for infrastructure to reduce water pollution. This would be a $3 million increase for the program.
Evers also wants to expand several programs within the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), including:
- $40 million in general obligation bonding authority for replacement of lead service lines, distributed as forgivable loans to municipalities to cover up to 50 percent of replacing a lead service line.
- A $350,000 increase in bonding authority for Target Runoff Management bonding (TRM), which provides cost sharing grants to local governments for infrastructure to reduce water pollution. Evers also proposed an additional $400,000 segregated revenue for TRM studies and programming to implement performance standard changes for runoff in the Silurian Bedrock area.
- A $300,000 increase in bonding authority for urban stormwater management, which provides cost sharing grants to local governments to build infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff.
- $730,000 in segregated revenue for education and outreach to farmers and property owners about runoff, a best management practices website, and software to help farmers make decisions related to commercial fertilizers.
- Adding four positions to the Wisconsin River, Milwaukee River, Rock River, and St. Croix River’s total maximum daily load programs, which regulate total water pollution that may be discharged in an impaired water basin.
- $25 million for contaminated sediment bonding for cleanup of contaminated areas of the Milwaukee River and St. Louis River.
- Extending the Petroleum Environmental Cleanup Fund Award until 2021. The award reimburses expenses for cleaning up property contaminated by petroleum products.
- A $1.6 million increase in funding for the Well Compensation Grant Program, which provides funding to treat contaminated private water supplies. The proposal includes an option for DNR to pay 100 percent of treatment costs (up to $16,000) for families making less than the median income. Evers would also bring the program into line with federal standards for unsafe levels of arsenic and nitrates.
- $75,000 for a study on the safety of drinking water in Grant, Iowa, and Lafayette counties.
Speaker’s Water Quality Task Force
Vos announced on Feb. 11 the members of a bipartisan Task Force on Water Quality. The task force came at the request of Reps. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) and Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) after a report showed widespread contamination in private wells in the southwestern region where their districts lie. The task force will hold public hearings around the state, then make recommendations on assessing and improving water quality.
Novak will chair the committee, along with vice-chair Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point). Other members of the task force are Tranel; Reps. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), Scott Krug (R-Rome), Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma), Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer), Timothy Ramthun (R-Campbellsport), Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc), Robert Brooks (R-Saukville), Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb), and Staush Gruszynski (D-Green Bay); and Sens. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), André Jacque (R-DePere) and Mark Miller (D-Monona).