The co-chairman of the Door-Kewaunee Legislative Days steering committee says legislative action and rule changes are underway on more than five initiatives as a result of the biennial lobbying trip to the state Capitol by business and government leaders from the two counties that comprise the Door peninsula.
More than 130 volunteer delegates made the trip to advocate for issues and initiatives important to Door and Kewaunee Counties.
“We ask a lot of our delegates, and I’m grateful and proud of their efforts and work,” said Caleb Frostman, executive director of the Door County Economic Development Corp. as well as steering committee co-chair. “We heard from legislators about how impressed they were with the presentation of our materials and our agenda, saying our delegates are some of the most effective that come to Madison from any community in the state.”
Frostman issued the following report about results and updates for the five main agenda items the Door/Kewaunee Legislative Days delegates lobbied:
WATER QUALITY: Protecting water quality of Door & Kewaunee Rivers
Legislative Days delegates agenda: Support funding for a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study that will include three major Kewaunee and Door County Rivers: the East Twin River, the Kewaunee River and the Ahnapee River. These three major rivers are on the Impaired Waters List and are required by the Clean Water Act to develop TMDLs. The cost of the full study will be $520,000 spread over four years.
Results: Joint Finance Committee approved a request for funding for a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study for the rivers of Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Sheboygan Counties and the streams that lie in, and between, the Ahnapee River watershed and the Sauk Creek watershed. The TMDL Study will take place over four years and be run by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). After the study is completed, farmers and businesses in the area could use the results for planning and management of their lands and water resources. Study results will also qualify farmers for federal grants in addressing this problem.
At this point, funding is only requested for 3 of the 10 impaired water bodies currently listed on the WDNR web page (http://dnr.wi.gov/water/impairedSearch.aspx). The first step to restoring these three major waterways is to determine the current level of pollutants, such as phosphorus and sediment, entering the waterbody from each potential source. This typically involves two to three years of water sampling and aquatic analysis. The following step is to determine the required reduction in pollution to meet water quality standards. At that point, a TMDL plan will be developed for a strategic framework to prioritize resources for water quality improvement efforts. Implementation of best management practices and compliance monitoring are the final steps toward meeting the targeted water quality values for use and aquatic life.
KARST GEO-REGION: Protect the public’s drinking water
Legislative Days delegates agenda: Continue the rule-making process begun by the WDNR in 2016, to write new rules regarding animal waste management that take into account our region’s unique Karst geology.
During the 2015 Door/Kewaunee Legislative Days, delegates requested that the “one size fits all” regulations on nonpoint sources of pollution, including animal waste management, be tailored to account for the shallow soils over fractured carbonate bedrock geology. Well test results in Door and Kewaunee Counties showing unsafe conditions due to nitrates and bacteria in one-third or more of the wells tested illustrates that implementation of the statewide performance standards and prohibitions have not been sufficient to achieve groundwater standards in a very vulnerable Karst Geo-Region in Wisconsin.
Results: In 2017, delegates thanked the State of Wisconsin for initiating the rule-making process, and requested that it continue without delay, so implementation of the new standards could begin as quickly as possible.
The WDNR released the proposed targeted performance standards in summer of 2017. WDNR held a public hearing and accepted written public comment until the beginning of October. WDNR is expected to provide a written response to the public comments this December. Next steps in the process include WDNR bringing the proposed targeted performance standards to the Natural Resources Board for adoption, approval by the Governor, and Legislative review/hearings in the winter of 2018.
The proposed targeted performance standards would have to be adopted as a rule before implementation can begin. Changes are specific to manure applications in targeted areas, where 20 feet or less of soil overlies Silurian bedrock. The standards include greater setbacks from wells and other direct conduits to groundwater, restrictions on manure applications on fields with two to five feet of soil over bedrock, and a prohibition on manure applications on fields with less than two feet of soil over bedrock. Current soil survey maps give a general overview, but more detailed depth-to-bedrock studies will have to be done. Farms with a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit will have to comply with the proposed standards through their permit, regardless of any local ordinance and without cost share. Cost share will be required for farms without a CAFO permit, when construction of best management practices is necessary to comply.
SCHOOL START DATE: Oppose Repeal of Statewide Standard
Legislative Days Delegates request: Due to Door and Kewanuee Counties’ reliance on the tourism economy and high school labor in the summer months, retain, do not change, the Statewide Standard School Starting Date, mandating schools begin on or after Sept. 1.
Results: School Start Date retained to Sept. 1 or after. Door and Kewaunee counties helped ensure overall economic development and sustainable economic growth through crucial tourism dollars, via a young labor force that is crucial during a time of employee shortages.
BROADBAND FUNDING: Support proposed funding for improving rural broadband
Legislative Days Delegates request: Approve SB-49 and its companion Assembly bill to increase funding for the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s Broadband Expansion Grant Program. The Governor increased broadband grant allocations in the 2015-17 biennial budget from $500,000 to $1.5 million annually. The Governor’s proposed 2017-19 biennial budget provides $11 million more for the program over the next several years.
These grants provide reimbursement for equipment and construction expenses incurred by efforts to extend or improve broadband telecommunications services in underserved regions of Wisconsin.
Results: The budget for the grant program for the next biennium is currently set at $14.5 million, with a legislative minimum of $2 million per biennium thereafter.
Applications for the Broadband Expansion Grants are due at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin by Jan. 25, 2018. Encourage your local broadband provider to apply and improve broadband speed and availability for Door and Kewaunee Counties.
HARBOR ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: Consistent and adequate funding for the Harbor Assistance Program
Legislative Days Delegates request: Ensure that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Harbor Assistance Program is funded consistently and adequately to meet the long term needs of Wisconsin’s commercial harbors. We supported the recommendation for the 2017-2019 biennium of $15.4 million and urge future funding at adequate levels to meet the needs of all Wisconsin commercial harbors. Shipbuilding and harbor infrastructure are critical to maintaining thousands of jobs and adding more in Door and Kewaunee Counties. The DOT’s Harbor Assistance Program provides critical additional support that is essential to the maintenance and development of necessary infrastructure.
Results: Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding Co. has secured a 2018 budget appropriation of $3.2 million from the state HAP fund for south dock wall improvements.