Lee Bergquist: Water Wars on the Sand Counties of Wisconsin

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Two articles on groundwater and lakes

War Over Water

In 2010, Minnesota lawmakers passed legislation giving that state’s DNR the authority to establish groundwater protection areas that allow the agency to limit water use to meet human needs and protect lakes, streams and wetlands.

After three years of review, the first protection area was designated in November 2015 in metropolitan St. Paul — an area that runs to the Wisconsin border. Two other areas have been identified in rural areas of Minnesota.

In Wisconsin, with Kraft’s work being questioned and environmentalists pressing for action, the DNR and the growers association underwrote a two-year, $230,000 study of the Little Plover.

In April, the Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey found that groundwater played a key role in the health of the Little Plover; the river was vulnerable to groundwater pumping; and that stream flows would improve substantially if wells nearest the river were removed.

The study “did not refute the work of Dr. Kraft — if anything, it built on that work,” said Ken Bradbury, director of the state natural history survey and co-author of the study.

But Tamas Houlihan, executive director of the potato and vegetable group, said his industry isn’t convinced, although he says growers near the Little Plover have voluntarily changed their farming and irrigation practices to conserve water.
— http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/wisconsin/2016/09/03/war-over-water-land-plenty/89481060/
Water Policy

Plainfield — Three years after Brian Wolf bought his home on Long Lake in 2006, lawmakers and water policy experts began stopping by to see what had happened to the lake.

”It’s as if someone pulled the plug in a bathtub,” Wolf told one group of visitors in November 2009. “This lake is dead.”

Legislators left Wolf’s home in western Waushara County with plans to address growing worries about high-capacity wells and the effect groundwater pumping was having on lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands.

But lawmakers tried and failed to pass a groundwater bill in the 2010 legislative session. This year, legislative efforts also went nowhere.

This summer, the water in Long Lake is mostly gone, dotted by a few marshy areas. Cattails and grasses sprout from the former lake bed. Other traditionally shallow lakes in this region of sandy soil in the middle of the state have shared similar fates.

A dock on Long Lake near Coloma is surrounded by weeds. The lake has seen its water levels plummet and has become a marsh. Landowners blame the large number of high-capacity wells used to irrigate crops in the region.

They have become symbols of the tug-of-war over water use in Wisconsin. The advantage has shifted to large water users as the number of high-capacity wells have proliferated and efforts to put more limits on the use of groundwater have foundered.
— http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/wisconsin/2016/09/04/conflicts-thwart-reforms-state-water-policy/89482796/