DNR to issue new rules for farmers in karst areas, Kitchens says
In response to continued groundwater problems in Kewaunee County, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) expects to issue new administrative regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and other farmers in karst areas, state Rep. Joel Kitchens said Thursday.
Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, met with Gov. Scott Walker Wednesday and said that they had agreed that different DNR rules governing agriculture were needed for “unique geological areas of the state.”
“He understands that one size fits all doesn’t work,” Kitchen said, referring to DNR regulations that govern statewide agricultural practices, particularly for manure spreading.
The new administrative rules will be developed from best management practices recommended by DNR work groups formed in 2015. The groups were composed of representatives from agriculture, environmental groups, government agencies and other citizens in Kewaunee and Door counties where more than 30 percent of tested wells are contaminated.
Kitchens said that rules will involve tighter restrictions on manure spreading in karst areas that exist in these counties. Karst geology includes shallow soils and fractures that make groundwater more vulnerable to contamination. He said the rules may also incorporate other best management practices recommended by the work groups, such as the use of cover crops, buffer zones and more detailed soil mapping.
The governor’s focus on the increased restrictions comes more than a year after environmental groups petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address violations to the Clean Drinking Water Act because of groundwater contamination in Kewaunee County. The groups blamed excessive manure spreading by the 16 concentrated animal feeding operations in the county for much of the contamination.
CAFO owners initially blamed the pollution problems on septic systems that were not up to code and other sources, But in March three of the largest CAFO owners said that they believed that large-scale agriculture was part of the reason for groundwater contamination problems and that the industry was in the best position to come up with solutions to the problem. Since then, farmers in Kewaunee and Door counties have formed a not-for-profit group to encourage farmers to voluntarily adopt more conservation-minded practices.
“Voluntary efforts by farmers are already exceeding state regulations,” Kitchens said.
But Kitchens said recent reports of continued well contamination had created “a sense of urgency” on the part of the governor’s office and DNR.
He said that the new administrative rules were a better alternative than trying to get new laws passed through the state Legislature because “many legislators don’t understand the depth-to-bedrock issues” that are prevalent only in the karst areas of Wisconsin. Karst geology is primarily located in thee west central, central and eastern areas of the state.
He said that the DNR would be holding public hearings on the new administrative rules so that “interest groups can weigh in.”
Rep. Scott Krug, who represents the Central Sands areas of the state, also participated in the meeting with the Governor because of that region’s unique geology, Kitchens said. Krug recently spoke in Kewaunee County and said that issues due to runoff polluting rivers and lakes was one of the biggest concerns of residents in the state.
“All of this attention to Kewaunee County will serve a good purpose,” said Kitchens, noting that the county will be hosting Farm Technology Days, one of the biggest agricultural expositions in the state, in 2017. “It won’t happen overnight, but we can put some things in place that we can brag about.”
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: DNR to issue new rules for farmers in karst areas, Kitchens says