Despite strong Dem opposition, the Assembly has passed a bill 57-39 that overhauls several areas of state law governing bodies of water.
Four Republicans joined Dems in voting against the bill. They are: Reps. Al Ott, of Forest Junction; Todd Novak, of Dodgeville; John Murtha, of Baldwin; and Joel Kitchens, of Sturgeon Bay.
Dems called the bill "dangerous" and "the worst bill for the environment in this session." Rep. Cory Mason summed up the Dem opposition.
"This is sort of like Act 10 for Wisconsin lakes," the Racine Dem said.
Rep. Adam Jarchow said he appreciated the "good, rigorous debate" from both sides of the aisle on his AB 600. He emphasized all of the amendments the bill took on and all of the conversations he had with conservation groups.
"We are all here," the Balsam Lake Republican said, "and we are all responsible for taking care of our natural resources."
The bill's sub amendment was amended further on the floor. Jarchow's legislation includes provisions such as:
*clarifying the definition of navigable waters as it relates to man-made ditches and storm water control structures. Under the sub, roadside ditches used by fish to reach their spawning areas still would be considered navigable waters.
*changing the ways Areas of Special Natural Resource Interest are designated. The Department of Natural Resources now identifies those areas, but the bill would require approval by the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. The sub, though, would provide that a number of areas of lakes keep the ASNRI designation previously assigned by the DNR. An additional amendment would delay implementation of the ASNRI until the beginning of 2017.
*creating a mechanism under which developers can get clean deeds to dry lake beds. Under the bill, any lake bed that was dry prior to Jan. 1, 1975, could be available for a clean deed in certain circumstances. But the sub makes accommodations for dry lake beds the public has been using.
*requiring the DNR issue general permits, rather than more restrictive individual permits, to
allow the removal of 30 cubic yards of material from the bed of an inland lake adjacent to an
owner's property. The sub includes conditions the DNR must add to those general permits.
The bill also was amended to delete a provision that would have required the DNR secretary give "substantial weight" to local findings when determining the level and flow of water in an inland lake.
GOP supporters of the bill praised Jarchow for his work. Some, such as Rep. Dave Craig, of Big Bend, talked about the importance of the dredging provision. Others, such as Rep. Michael Schraa, of Oshkosh, said it's time for the state to loosen the ASNRI designations.
And Rep. John Nygren used the Dem theme of eroding local control to make his argument.
"Ultimate local control is the property owner," the Marinette Republican said, "not local government."
But Rep. Nick Milroy said the legislation shows a basic misunderstanding of the habitats within lakes. It's why, the South Range Dem said, the bill is so dangerous.
"Spare me the stupidity," he said, "and start listening to people who know what they're talking about."