Bills to Unravel Water Protection Co-Sponsors Deadline Next Monday

Wisconsin Lakes Action Alert

December 3, 2015

Two new bills would unravel many of Wisconsin’s water protections

Sen. Frank Lasee and Rep. Adam Jarchow teamed up to author two bills they are referring to as their “Property Rights Package”. The bills limit what is considered “public water” in Wisconsin, and restrict how activities in those waters are regulated.

At thirty-six pages, the bills are a lot to consume, and Wisconsin Lakes is still working to analyze all their implications. But even a cursory reading makes clear that this is an attempt to benefit an individual property owner at the cost of their lake – and their neighbors.

Wisconsin Lakes understands – as do many of our lake organization members who are currently working so hard to restore shoreland zoning laws – that “property rights” are not an idea that applies solely to the individual. Actions on one property impact all the properties on a body of water. After all, that’s why waterfront property owners come together as lake associations and lake districts to manage their lake in the first place.

These bills ignore that fundamental principle, and include language that would:

  • Shorten the list of waters protected by the public trust doctrine,
  • Allow individuals to remove without an individual permit a certain amount of lake bed each year (up to 10 dump trucks full, according to an analysis by the River Alliance of Wisconsin),
  • Change the rules on when and how citizens can challenge DNR permitting decisions impacting waters, including disputes over pier placement and other actions,
  • Increase the amount of development in wetlands,
  • Reduce the amount of shoreland areas DNR can designate for special protection as “areas of special natural resource interest” or ANSRI,
  • Prohibit municipalities from passing a development moratorium, and
  • Further the trend of eroding local control on zoning and other issues.

What You Can Do

Before a bill is formally introduced into the Wisconsin Legislature, its authors ask their fellow legislators to sign on as co-sponsors. These bills, currently designated as the “Property Rights Package: Lands Near Waters” (LRB3588/1) and the “Property Rights Package: Statewide Uniformity” (LRB3986/1), have a deadline of Monday, December 7, 2015 for legislators to sign on.

Now is the perfect time, therefore, to let your own legislators know what you think.

If you want to preserve the strong, effective water laws Wisconsin is known for, and you understand that “property rights” is as much about what others can do on their property that negatively impacts yours and your enjoyment of the lake as it is about what you can do on your own, then call or write your legislators and ask them not to cosponsor these bills.