Gov. Scott Walker signed multiple bills Tuesday that scale back regulations on Wisconsin waterways and expand property rights for landowners.
SB 459, now Act 387, caused environmentalists and developers to clash when it was introduced by state Sen. Frank Lasee, R-DePere, in late December. Environmental rights advocates argued the bill would endanger waterfronts vulnerable to development, while the bill’s authors claim its intent is to resolve confusion from homeowners and builders in regulatory and permitting disputes.
“When the people of Wisconsin buy land, they often want to improve it but find current regulations overly restrictive and difficult to understand,” Walker said in a press release Tuesday. “This bill strengthens private property rights for Wisconsinites and streamlines the regulatory process for waterfront property owners so they are able to further use and enjoy their land.”
The law makes key changes to waterfront regulation in the state. The most controversial part of the legislation restricts what can be labeled an Area of Special Natural Resource Interest. Construction in those areas requires special permits. The legislation restricts the kinds of bodies of water that can be designated as having special natural resource interests, opening up more land to development without a permit.
Any area to be designated as ASNRI are now approved by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, taking much of the power out of the DNR’s hands. New provisions also limit requirements for DNR permits to conduct certain activities in bodies of water and eliminate a need for DNR permits for dredging artificial bodies of water that do not connect to the waterways.
“Throughout the process, we worked with the DNR, environmental advocates, local governments, sportsman’s associations, and other groups to address many of their concerns in these bills to reach a balance and consensus law that protects the environment, focuses DNR resources on the most sensitive matters, and improves private property rights.” Lasee said in a press release Thursday.
Walker also signed another measure, authored by Lasee and state Rep. Adam Jarchow, R-Balsam Lake, that “clarifies zoning regulations for property owners.”
“This legislation not only protects Wisconsin property owners, it also helps create an environment where people want to live and raise a family, which ultimately bolsters our economy and job creation,” Walker said in the statement.
Andrew Bahl contributed to this report