High Capacity Well Legislation Dies

On the last night of session, the Senate took up and passed Senate Bill 239, guaranteeing the death of high capacity well legislation this session. Last month, the Assembly passed its companion, Assembly Bill 874, as adopted by amendments. This week, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business, and Tourism, passed SB 239 and adopted Senate Substitute Amendment 2. The amended Senate bill removed a provision that allowed a person to file a nuisance action claiming they are “unreasonably harmed” by another person’s groundwater withdrawal, including the lowering of a water table or the reduction of pressure from a well.

The Senate’s choice to take up their version of the bill guarantees the legislation’s death, as the Assembly will not be returning this session.

Rep. Lee Nerison (R-Westby) and Sen. Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac) introduced the companion bills. The legislation clarifies DNR permit regulations for existing high capacity wells. The bill provides that no additional approval is required for previously existing high capacity well owners to repair, maintain, or replace existing wells with one of similar dimensions and capacities.

Under existing rules, high capacity well owners need approval in writing from the DNR to reconstruct and build wells.