Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association

DNR Announces Plans to Implement Attorney General’s Opinion on High Capacity Well Applications

This morning the DNR posted the following information regarding their plans to implement the Attorney General’s opinion on their website.  Based on the posted information and their FAQ’s, it appears that we are essentially back to 2003 for non-Groundwater Protection Area wells with the exception of wells that are part of an EIS because of another permit that is a part of the project.  If a well has been approved SINCE Act 21 and the permit holder would like it re-reviewed in accordance with this guidance, then they should contact DNR as noted in the FAQ document linked below.

High capacity well application review

On May 10, 2016 Wisconsin’s Attorney General issued a formal opinion on the Department’s review authority of high capacity well applications [exit DNR]. Two key conclusions from the Attorney General’s opinion are:

  • DNR may impose conditions or requirements on high capacity well approvals only if the agency has explicit permission or an explicit requirement to do so in statute or rule; and
  • DNR does not have explicit authority to consider cumulative impacts or to impose monitoring requirements on high capacity well approvals.

As a result of the opinion, in addition to determining whether the proposed well meets well construction requirements, the DNR will review each high capacity well application to determine whether the proposed high capacity well:

  • is within a groundwater protection area (within 1,200 feet of a class 1, 2 or 3 trout stream or a designated outstanding or exceptional resource water);
  • may impact springs with flow greater or equal to one cubic foot per second;
  • will result in water loss greater than 95 percent;
  • will result in 10 or more feet of water level drawdown in the public utility well based on 30 days of continuous pumping from the proposed high capacity well or well system; and
  • will degrade safe drinking water and the groundwater resource or impact public safety.

The applications that meet the criteria listed above will be subject to an environmental review process and any approval will include conditions to ensure the well does not result in significant adverse environmental impacts and may require preparation of an environmental impact statement. In addition, if any of these conditions is met, the DNR may include specific conditions in the high capacity well approval, which may include conditions as to location, depth, pumping capacity, rate of flow and ultimate use.

View a description of the Department’s review process post May 10, 2016 [PDF].
View frequently asked questions related to the Attorney General’s opinion [PDF].

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