DNR takes a strong stand
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The state and the federal government have gotten a decent
handle on controlling pollution from industrial and municipal
wastewater plants, "point sources" of pollution
released through easily identifiable pipes. But runoff
(or non-point) pollution - from lawns, farms, construction
sites, roadways, parking lots and roofs - remains a serious
threat to the quality of Wisconsin's water.
To counter that threat, the state Department of Natural
Resources has come up with the most comprehensive set
of rules in the country to protect against non-point pollution.
So comprehensive, in fact, that they will affect most
state residents in one way or another.
That being the case, residents might want to pay particular
attention to the debate and make sure their own voices
are heard as the rules move through the Legislature in
coming months. But we hope they agree with our assessment
that on the overall picture, the DNR seems to have gotten
things about right and that too much tinkering by legislators
will only muddy the waters.
The new rules would change the way municipalities clean
their streets and what residents do with their fallen
leaves; how fertilizer is placed on lawns larger than
5 acres; how much salting of roadways takes place in winter;
the way construction sites are set up and maintained;
the way highway projects are designed; and what small
farmers do to control soil erosion and manure runoff.
The rules were put together over four years with input
from the public and various groups. Overall, they make
for a reasonable package that could go a long way toward
bringing non-point pollution under control.
Still, there are some details over which reasonable people
will disagree, such as whether farmers should be required
to put in buffer zones between their fields and neighboring
lakes and rivers. Environmentalists say farmers should
be, and will press for such buffers as the rules go through
The DNR dropped a buffer requirement because federal
officials have refused to give a straight answer on whether
such a requirement would affect a program that provides
federal grants for farmers who voluntarily do such things
as put in buffer zones.
Given that federal ambiguity, it makes sense to drop
the buffer requirement for now and revisit it down the
road, when the effects of the federal volunteer program
are better known and when federal officials might be a
little more communicative.