State News

Legislation would limit regulations of wetland

A bill circulating the Assembly for sponsors would roll back environmental regulations for wetlands.

Image By: Brandon Moe

Republican lawmakers are looking for co-sponsors on a bill that would overturn previous wetland environmental protections across Wisconsin that they say hinder economic growth.

The bill precedes the arrival of Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics industry company that is currently constructing a manufacturing plant in Wisconsin that is expected to create 13,000 jobs.

One of the bill’s sponsors, state Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, says the legislation is unrelated to Foxconn’s new manufacturing campus.

Part of the state’s $3 billion incentive package to bring the company to Wisconsin included environment exceptions for the construction of Foxconn’s facilities.

Many Democrats who opposed the Foxconn bill’s passage cited environmental concerns over allowing the company to use high quantities of water from Lake Michigan and the potential of chemicals from the factory polluting the air.

In 2001, Wisconsin was the first state in the U.S. to approve protective legislation for isolated wetlands. It became required for companies and individuals to obtain a permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources before building on top of wetlands.

The GOP has previously opposed this law, stating that it disrupts the economic productivity of businesses in the affected areas.

Steinke's bill would remove the need for permits and instead call for the creation of 1.2 acres of new wetlands for each acre that is filled by developments. The DNR would no longer be required to review the environmental standards of any new wetlands.

The DNR has said removing this environmental protection policy will put one million out of 5.3 million acres of wetlands in danger of pollution.

“Those who view isolated wetlands as marginal ignore the critical functions they serve for flood control and wildlife habitat, including nesting for waterfowl,” said Erin O’Brien, the wetlands association's policy director, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

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