Implementation questioned in DNR workgroup final report
KEWAUNEE — At the Kewaunee County Board meeting Tuesday, discussion did not focus on specific Department of Natural Resource (DNR) Workgroup recommendations to improve groundwater quality, but on if and how they would be implemented.
County Conservationist Davina Bonness presented the Groundwater Collaboration Workgroup final report for the first time publicly at the meeting. She focused on the top five recommendations of each workgroup as they related to manure spreading and groundwater improvement..
“Implementation is the issue,” said Bonness. “They (the recommendations) are all based on voluntary cooperation.”
The workgroups were established by the DNR in August 2015 in response to concerns over contaminated drinking wells in Kewaunee and Door counties, as well as in response to a formal petition by citizens to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Safe Water Drinking Act. More than 30 percent of tested wells in Kewaunee County are contaminated.
The work groups included farmers, citizens, government officials and agricultural and environmental representatives. They were charged with developing recommended solutions to groundwater contamination caused by livestock manure spreading, particularly in sensitive karst areas.
Bonness reported on more than 40 recommendations from three work groups – short-term solutions, compliance and best management practices/sensitive areas. Some of the recommendations also specified who should implement them – the state Legislature, DNR, county government, or citizen and farmer groups.
The Short-Term Solutions group recommendations, for example, called on three different stakeholders to provide emergency water supplies to owners of contaminated wells – county government, DNR and agricultural producers.
Compliance Work group recommendations asked for DNR and county to conduct more land application hauling audits and oversight. They also requested added staff to improve oversight of existing manure spreading regulations in sensitive areas.
Bonness pointed out that the one DNR representative responsible for monitoring manure management of the county’s 16 concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is also covering several other counties.
It was difficult to get consensus for Best Management Practices/Sensitive Areas workgroup recommendations, said Bonness.
However, the No. 1 priority that emerged was to recommend no mechanical applications of manure on soils with a depth of less than 12 inches to bedrock. Bonness said that while CAFOs are not allowed to spread manure on fields with less than 24 inches to bedrock, smaller farmers continue to spread manure on these shallow soils.
The workgroup also recommended that no liquid manure be applied on soils less than 24 inches to bedrock and provided a list of bedrock depth recommendations for manure spreading.
Bonness said that while the recommendations were voluntary, most farmers wanted to implement them.
“Farmers are absolutely working with us,” said Bonness. “They want to do as much as they can to help fix the problem.”
Bonness pointed out that if the DNR were to incorporate the recommendations into its administrative rules it would be a one- to three-year process.
State Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, told the board that they may want to consider adopting a similar ordinance to Door County’s Chapter 23, which gives the county the authority to enforce DNR administrative rules regarding manure spreading for both CAFO and non-CAFO farmers.
Currently the DNR is responsible for enforcing manure spreading regulations for CAFOs in Kewaunee County. If the state can’t provide more DNR personnel, perhaps the county should consider taking on the duties, themselves, Kitchens said.
Kitchens said that a recent Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau report that found that the DNR was not enforcing its own rules for regulating CAFOs was “pretty damning, but not surprising.”
“In Door County 15 years ago they realized that the DNR won’t have the staff so they elected to do it themselves,” Kitchens said.
Steps are being taken to revise DNR administrative code regarding manure spreading in certain geological areas, Kitchens said. He said that this was preferable to state legislative action, which would take a long time.
Supervisor Lee Luft said that at a public meeting on the DNR workgroup recommendations June 23, he would ask the EPA to stay involved in Kewaunee County.
“They need to look over the shoulder of the DNR because of its massive regulatory failure to date,” Luft said.
> In other business, Andy Bader of Luxemburg presented a petition with more than a 100 signatures asking the board to reopen the dock at Red River Park. He said that this was the only county public access to Green Bay. The request was referred to the board’s Promotion and Recreation Committee.
> The board discussed a bill to the county by Roach & Associates for $25,000 for work that Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) had said did not meet the requirements of its grant for the county’s Phoenix Project. Roach had been hired in March under the previous county board, according to Scott Feldt, county administrator.
Supervisor Kaye Shillin said that the board had been told that no taxpayer money was going towards the project. The project is designed to study the feasibility of treating livestock manure from several CAFOs at one central site.
“The public is not going to be pleased,” she said.
Finance Committee Chair Luft said that his committee would meet with Roach about the bill.
The county board then approved a resolution 16-3 to grant a contract for the Phoenix Project to Dynamic Concepts LLC after Luft and County Administrator Scott Feldt said that the new contractor would be working closely with WPS to ensure that the terms of the grant are met.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Implementation questioned in DNR workgroup final report