State Senator Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst says the wetlands bill that passed both chambers of the legislature strikes an environmental balance and updates rules.
In late February, the Senate passed the bill which earlier had passed the Assembly. The bill allows easier permitting and mitigation requirements for non-federal and artificial wetlands. 80 percent of the state's wetlands are federally regulated and not affected by this bill.
Tiffany says the change allows developers more flexibility...
"....one of the most important provisions and I saw an example in Rhinelander was in regard to artificial wetlands and where we saw a development stopped in Rhinelander, it was a very narrow sliver of artificial wetlands that was created on North Stevens St. A developer was not allowed to put a driveway with a culvert there as a result of that being deemed as a wetland, even though it was artificial. This legislation fixes that problem...."
Proponents of the legislation say the rules concerning state-regulated wetlands have become costly and burdensome. Opponents said it opens the door to an overall loss of valuable wetlands, which could increase flood risk and wetlands natural filtering of surface water. Tiffany says that argument is overblown...
"....some people are conflating this that it covers all wetlands in Wisconsin. It does not. It is only state or isolated wetlands. Federal wetlands, over 80 percent of the wetlands in Wisconsin are not affected by this bill. What we're saying is in a reasonable fashion they should be able to take a small portion of a wetland or something like that...."
Opponents also said the bill reduces DNR authority over the process. Governor Walker has not yet signed the bill which passed the State Senate of February 20.