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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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home : opinions : letters to the editor
October 17, 2019

3/2/2017 7:30:00 AM
Legislators are allowing big corporations to exploit natural resources

To the editor:

Let me begin with two phrases: "water is precious for all life" and "Wisconsin is open for business." The first is a fundamental truth. The second is the motto of Gov. Walker and the Wisconsin's Republican Party. The two often clash, and Republicans know which side their bread is buttered.

Take groundwater. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald recently presented Senate Bill 76 to allow drilling of high-capacity water wells (which can withdraw over 100,000 gallons a day) without review if the wells replace existing ones. This virtually gives perpetual rights to consume vast amounts of water, no matter the impact on water levels in homeowner wells and lakes.

So, if the big corporations want to consume unlimited quantities of water in a way that reduces water supply in homeowner wells or in lakes where people have property and fish, well, that's OK for the Republican Party.

The bill does toss in a provision having the DNR produce a hydrological study about impacts in certain areas, but that can take four years, and any decision is up to the legislature. The chances of restricting what has long been in place is minimal at best, so this is merely a token. Property rights? Homeowner wells are not to be considered - they can just run dry.

Last year a scientific study linked high-volume wells with losses of lakes and rivers connected to ground water. No matter. Whether it is local water issues or climate change, Republicans have become the anti-science party.

They tried a similar bill last year and failed, despite the support of Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Robert Swearingen. As representatives of people living in north central Wisconsin, they have thrown their support behind the big corporations and against ordinary citizens and our natural resources. Will they do that again this year?

We are against regulations, Republicans say, but what if regulations protect homeowners and fishermen? Well, if the corporations don't want them, then Tiffany and Swearingen will do their bidding.

"Wisconsin is open for business." Actually, the phrase should be "Wisconsin is open for big corporations to exploit our natural resources no matter the impact on the citizens and the environment." But this truth remains: "water is precious for all life." And I would add another: "water belongs to all the people." That's the Public Trust Doctrine, and it is in the state constitution.

David Barnhill


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