State Water Bills Update

Excerpts below are from Wisconsin Lakes January 16th Lakes Policy Report.

SB477/AB603: Public Hearing 
Shoreland zoning bill gets public hearing in Senate

SB477, the Senate companion to a AB603 is scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday, January 19 at 10am. The bill, introduced by Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake), adds to the previously enacted changes weakening the state’s shoreland zoning laws.

AB603 was the subject of a recent public hearing by the Assembly Natural Resources committee, with a number of Wisconsin Lakes member waterfront property owners and Executive Director Michael Engleson testifying in opposition to the bill (watch Wisconsin Eye coverage of the hearing, here). Thank you to those of you who testified in person, as well as all of you who contacted your legislators and objected to the bill.

Since the hearing, we’ve been in regular contact with legislators in both the Assembly and Senate, as well as Rep Jarchow’s office, to try to change some of its provisions for the better. With the Assembly committee vote scheduled for Wednesday January 20, we’ll know soon whether the author is willing to compromise to reverse even the tiniest piece of the state budget’s wholesale change to shoreland zoning.

Without a change, the SB477/AB603 would:

  • Codify more shoreland zoning standards in the statutes, making them more subject to political whim and less likely to be determined by rigorous scientific review,
  • Add more structures in the setback from the waters edge to the list of those allowed to be repaired, replaced, or reconstructed without approval, fee, or mitigation requirement,
  • Virtually ensure more development in the setback by requiring counties to allow new construction based not on the standard setback, but on the average setback of adjacent non-conforming structures

While the bill does give small nods to the counties, it so far fails to be the compromise many had hoped for.

The bill is up for a public hearing on Tue, January 19, 2016 at 10am in room 411 South at the State Capitol.

If you agree this bill is bad for lakes and lake property owners, letting your opposition be known at this hearing would be powerful.

If you plan on attending, you can sign up for info and updates by clicking here.

Compromise seems possible on massive water law bill
Bill attacks numerous provisions of WI water law

While not explicitly a shoreland zoning bill, a proposal from Sen. Frank Lasee (R-DePere) and Rep. Adam Jarchow would drastically limit local control of development activities in shoreland areas, limit protections to wetlands and sensitive natural resource areas, and even give away lake bed owned by the state to private individuals.

The bill seeks to allow individuals the ability to do more on their own property without regard to the impacts on our waters or neighboring property owners.

A marathon six hour public hearing was held on January 5, with most of the participants speaking against or raising concerns with various provisions of the bill (watch here, on Wisconsin Eye). Stripping some wetlands of protection, abandonment of some filled lake bed by the state, and a provision allowing property owners to dredge 30 cubic yards near their shore drew criticism. Wisconsin Lakes President Mary Knipper and Executive Director Michael Engleson both testified against the bill, along with numerous citizens, WI Lakes members, and other organizations.

The legislators on the committee, as well as the bill’s author, heard and listened to the concerns of those that testified and contacted them, and Wisconsin Lakes and others have worked with them post-hearing on possible changes to the bill. While we have not seen the proposed amendment at the time of writing, we are hopeful that some of those concerns will be addressed. Whether the bill will be changed enough for us to drop our opposition remains to be seen, but the pressure you helped put on this bill has had an impact.

The bill has not been scheduled for either a vote in the Assembly committee or a public hearing in the Senate.

View the entire policy report here.