High Capacity Wells Bill Moves to Senate

Nov 11, 2013

A bill changing the approval process for high capacity wells has passed a Senate committee.  Some environmental groups are up in arms.  

Some groups worry proposed rule changes could lead to an increase in high capacity wells.
Credit John Poyser

 The bill limits the DNR’s powers in reviewing commercial wells that pump over 100,000 gallons per day.  For example a property with a well on it could be sold without having to get a new well permit.  And applications not acted upon within 65 days would get approved by default. 

DNR water use section chief Eric Ebersberger says the law would also reverse part the Lake Beulah state Supreme Court decision.  That ruling allowed the DNR to look at impacts on private wells and wetlands…when reviewing a new high capacity well application. 

"So Lake Beulah, that decision significantly broadened the extent of our reviews.  And what this legislation would do is restrict that slightly…so we would no longer be conditioning or denying wells on nonnavigable waters.”

The DNR doesn’t have an official position for or against the bill.  But Ebersberger says the application time limit would challenging. 

“The 65 day presumptive approval would be tough for us.  We just have to dedicate the staff.  I think going forward we could do it within 65 days but the trouble is we’ve gotten quite a backlog.  And that would be difficult for us.”

Ebersberger doesn’t think the new rules would create a dramatic spike in the number of high capacity wells.  But does say there would probably be some wells approved under the new changes - that otherwise wouldn’t be.