Waterfront property owners on “man-made impoundments” would be allowed to remove up to 50 cubic yards of dredge per year for navigational purposes under a bill being rushed through a soon-to-end legislative session. SB789 was given a public hearing this past Thursday, and its Assembly counterpart AB935 will be heard on Monday. The Assembly bill is also slated to be voted on by the committee on Tuesday and potentially considered later in the week by the full Assembly.
Wisconsin Lakes is opposed to the bill. Even though the ability for some waterfront property owners to dredge from their dock to the navigational channel is a real issue, allowing dredging without the oversight and notice provided by a permit is a costly mistake. Dredging can easily spread aquatic invasive species like Eurasian Watermilfoil and others – species both the state and local lake organizations are spending thousands of dollars and tons of time to prevent and control each year. Plus, sediment, especially the sediment that accumulates behind a dam in an impoundment can often contain algae-producing phosphorus or dangerous chemicals like arsenic. Not stuff that should be stirred up willy-nilly.
But under this bill, that’s exactly what could happen. Though dredgers would be required to follow best management practices established by the DNR, no one would be watching to make sure this happens. Moreover, without site review and an opportunity for public comment or public notice, potential problems might not become apparent until after the damage is done. And 50 cubic yards per year is the equivalent of 5 dump truck loads of sediment, and over five years is ten times what the recently issued DNR general permit allows (The DNR’s permit allows 25 cubic yards distributed over 5 years, whether its done all at once or spread over that time frame. The bill would allow 250 cubic yards to be dredged over the same time period).
Wisconsin Lakes is committed to helping waterfront property owners on lakes where many of them need to dredge to find a way to gain permission to do so efficiently (read a suggestion of ours in our testimony to the Senate committee on the bill: 2017SB789 Testimony). But simply allowing massive and unreviewed dredging projects is NOT the way to do it. Do you want to wake up one morning and find your neighbor spreading toxic silt into the water in front of your property? That scenario is a lot more likely to happen under this bill.