State Representative Louis Molepske, In this letter, sent to Cathy Stepp, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, criticizes the DNR’s lack of involvement and unwillingness to use its regulatory authority to manage the pumping of groundwater. That failure threatens our long-term water supply and is already damaging area lakes and streams.
He goes on to say that the DNR’s response to the Little Plover, despite the fact it has set a so-called “public rights flow” for the river, a level below which the river cannot drop before DNR intervenes, is inexplicable. Perhaps more inexplicable is the agency’s ignoring the other lakes and streams that have been impacted by pumping.
Molepske asserts that the DNR ignores or willfully overlooks the science of over 40 peer-reviewed reports going back as far as 1970, which show that excessive groundwater pumping in the Central Sands would deplete surface waters; that science tells us that if you pump too much groundwater, you dry up your rivers and lakes. He tells Secretary Stepp that it makes no sense that the DNR, guardian of our waters and the citizens’ defender of the Public Trust, ignores this science as it appears to permit more high-capacity wells without any consideration for the cumulative impacts of those wells.
He asks Secretary Stepp to:
- Realize that the Little Plover stakeholder process, created to come up with solutions to the drying up of that river, produced limited and short term results. Something stronger is needed.
- Use the agency’s Public Trust authority in getting all the impaired lakes and streams back to health.
- Create an action policy, using the Department’s constitutional and regulatory authority, whereby surface waters are protected if pumping is known to cause them to be depleted. In other words, no longer can the Department stand by and watch a stream or lake go dry.
- Advise and educate the Legislature's standing committees on natural resources, and the Legislature in general, on this issue by reminding them of the power and authority the Department has to address water resources and the interests competing for them.
In closing he says that it’s time to take our groundwater seriously. A resource that none of us can do without is deeply threatened, and the economic vitality of the state is at stake.