Walker promises ‘science-based’ groundwater solutions
In an interview before an invitation-only “town hall” meeting at the Kewaunee County Administration building Thursday, Gov. Scott Walker promised “science-based” solutions to the county’s water pollution problems.
He said that now that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had concluded its workgroups this month in the county to address groundwater issues, the DNR would be reviewing the workgroup recommendations next week and then be meeting with the EPA, and local officials from Door and Kewaunee counties, to put together a comprehensive plan, “again making sure it is based on science.”
He said that the studies currently being done by the DNR and county would determine whether most of the contamination was being caused by agricultural runoff or other pollutants and if different well depths were part of the problem.
“We want to make sure that people have clean, safe water,” Walker said.
The governor noted that the DNR had first met with farmers in March and that later that spring had met with the EPA and environmental groups. He said that the DNR was working with both the EPA in Kewaunee County as well as officials in Door County where similar groundwater problems existed.
In response to an emergency petition from environmental groups to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year asking the agency to use its “emergency powers” to address alleged violations of the nation’s Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA has been working with the DNR to address groundwater and surface water contamination in Kewaunee County where all three rivers are on the EPA’s impaired list and 34 percent of wells in a recent DNR study were determined to be contaminated, allegedly from runoff of cow manure and other pollutants.
Walker said the dairy industry was an important economic driver for the state and that the federal and state governments were all working in Kewaunee County to come up with “how to deal with water quality issues here.”
The governor also addressed the issues of wind farms proposed for Kewaunee County. He said that early in his first term he had sponsored wind farm legislation. He said that the legislation – which addressed property value concerns as well as the distance turbines could be placed from residences – had not made it through the state Legislature, but that he could look at reintroducing a bill with state Sen. Frank Lasee to protect property owners in the state, including Kewaunee County.
He said he was unaware of the deterioration of the East Twin River from a Class I Trout Stream to a river on the EPA’s Impaired List over the last decade due to alleged pollution from industry and CAFOs in the area, but asked to have his external relations representative Alexander Fhlug provide a DNR contact on the issue.
Approximately 40 Kewaunee County residents were invited to the “town hall” meeting with the governor, including five students from Kewaunee High School. Walker said that one of the goals of the meeting was to talk to as diverse a group of citizens as possible.
According to Sheriff Matt Joski, who was in attendance at the meeting, one of the questions the Governor asked participants was to envision what they would like the state to be like 20 years from now.
“I was most proud of our youth who were represented by members of the Kewaunee High School student body,” said Joski. “They were respectful, inquisitive and insightful in all of their questions and answers.”
Walker had said that he would use the information gathered during the session in Kewaunee County, as well as one held later in the day in Door County, in his State of the State address on Jan. 20.
This article was updated since it was originally published on Jan. 15.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Walker promises 'science-based' groundwater solutions