Lee Bergquist: Little Plover River Groundwater Study

Journal Sentinel:

A long-awaited study that examines how irrigation is affecting the closely watched Little Plover River in central Wisconsin could help prevent the river from running dry again.

The results of the state-funded research also may provide clues on how large-scale groundwater withdrawals are affecting streams, rivers and lakes elsewhere, according to scientists.

Groundwater issues have become increasingly contentious in Wisconsin, especially in the 1.75 million-acre Central Sands region — home to a large potato and vegetable growing industry. The region relies on more than 3,000 high-capacity wells to grow crops.

The Little Plover, a Class 1 trout stream, flows for about 6 miles near Stevens Point before it enters the Wisconsin River. But more than its reputation for fishing, the river is infamously known for stretches that run dry, as they did in 2005 and 2009.

Good groundwater science was done years ago by Dr. Kraft, who was quoted in this article. However, farmers and civic leaders apparently did not want to hear about how farm irrigation was the main reason for lower river flows. So the science and the predictions are now better and yet some farmers and civic leaders apparently still will not be convinced. When you start with a given pre-set belief or dogma and then search for any argument to rationalize, defend or justify the overexploiting of a pubic resource, then you are corrupt and your actions self-servicing. 

Wisconsin Public Radio's Route 51 broadcast a program discussing the newly released scientific study of the effects of high capacity wells on groundwater and the Little Plover River in the central sands region of Wisconsin. It included a panel discussion with George Kraft, hydrologist with UW Extension in Stevens Point; Tamas Houlihan, executive director of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association; Scott Krug, Republican Party Assemblyman from the Town of Rome; and Katrina Shankland, Democratic Party Assemblywoman from Stevens Point. 

If you would like to listen to the podcast of this program, click this link