Kewaunee County officials hope the state Natural Resources Board does not attempt to water down proposed rules for spreading manure on sensitive shallow soils when the board considers the new regulations Wednesday.

But even if it approves the revisions to state rule NR 151 as written, they may still face a battle in the state Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker’s office.

The revisions pertain to runoff management and nonpoint source performance standards in areas of the state with shallow soils over fragile Silurian bedrock, or karst, like much of the Door-Kewaunee peninsula.

More than two dozen people have registered to appear before the board to make a public comment about the proposed rules.

Kewaunee County Conservationist Davina Bonness told the county Land & Water Conservation Committee last week that the draft she saw looked positive for supporters.

“There’s really no scaling back, watering down, they kept a lot of the stuff that was discussed at the technical committees that we had,” Bonness said. “I think it’s a very fair balance of getting some stricter restrictions in our Silurian dolomite up to 20 feet.”

Bonness encouraged people to call members of the board to express their support. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group, and some agricultural organizations have raised concerns the rules may be too strict, especially rules that restrict application of liquid manure on soil that is 5 to 20 feet deep to bedrock.

“The opposition really does not want any restrictions from 5 to 20 feet, and I think the restrictions from 5-20 feet – they’re only for liquid manure, and I think that our farmers will be able to live with them,” Bonness said.

Bonness said it’s been documented that the existing NR 151 limits are not working to protect groundwater in Kewaunee County, and she said she’s confident county farmers will be able to meet the new standards.

Committee member Lee Luft challenged dairy leaders to back the rules:

“We can have as many people as we want write and appear before the NRB, we can have people write to the Legislature, but if they don’t hear from the farming community, if they don’t hear a positive response from the farming community, I expect that these new rules will be watered down,” Luft said.

He specifically called out Don Niles, president of the Peninsula Pride Farms coalition, who earlier in the meeting said progress on water quality has been achieved through cooperation with all sides.

“If you truly are backing what it is that is being proposed – and Don, you made mention of it that you really want to support the rules that are being proposed, give them a chance to work – if you truly believe that, there should be that kind of information passed on to the Natural Resources Board and the Legislature on Peninsula Pride letterhead and Dairy Business Association letterhead that says, ‘We are supporting of these regulations,’ and not this kind of commentary that says we’re going to oppose this. That’s what it’s gonna take.”

[Image: Injecting liquid manure on a farm field. (Dreamstime stock image)]