Press Releases

Legislative Days 2017 brings action and results to Door & Kewaunee Counties

Proving that voices from small, rural communities can make a difference, legislative action and rule changes are underway on more than five initiatives that will have a significant impact for life on the Door peninsula. These changes were advocated for and championed by more than 130 volunteer delegates during the bi-annual 2017 Door/Kewaunee Legislative Days, organized and hosted by the Door County Economic Development Corporation.

“We ask a lot of our delegates, and I’m grateful and proud of their efforts and work,” said Caleb Frostman, Executive Director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation and Legislative Days Steering Committee Co-Chair. “More than 130 residents made the trip to Madison, including 30 high school students, which is a serious commitment and we are very appreciative of that effort. We heard from legislators about how impressed they were with the presentation of our materials and our agenda, saying our delegates are some of the most effective that come to Madison from any community in the state.”

Door/Kewaunee Legislative Days provides citizens an opportunity to share a portrait of our region with state legislators and agency officials, and inform them on issues of importance to our communities.

“One of the reasons we go down to the Capitol every other year is to remind the elected folks in Madison that Door and Kewaunee County roads are not paved with gold,” said Frostman. “Although a jewel of Wisconsin and a thriving tourism hub, this is not a land of boundless riches. We are proud of our region and its successes, but want to make sure our voices are heard loud and clear as we express our counties’ ongoing economic, environmental, and quality of life needs.”

Many sponsors helped make the event possible and affordable, supporting the action needed to keep the Door Peninsula an excellent place to work, play and live. A hearty thank you goes out to the Legislative Days steering committee, specifically Rob Burke and Claire Thompson of the UW-Extension offices of Door and Kewaunee Counties, respectively, and to Assemblyman Joel Kitchens for his instrumental role coordinating logistics and speakers.

Here are the results and updates for the five main agenda items the Door/Kewaunee Legislative Days delegates lobbied:

WATER QUALITY – Protecting water quality of Door & Kewaunee Rivers

Legislative Days delegates agenda:

Support funding for a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study that will include three major Kewaunee and Door County Rivers: the East Twin River, the Kewaunee River and the Ahnapee River. These three major rivers are on the Impaired Waters List and are required by the Clean Water Act to develop TMDLs. The cost of the full study will be $520,000 spread over four years.

Results:

Joint Finance Committee approved a request for funding for a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study for the rivers of Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Sheboygan Counties and the streams that lie in, and between, the Ahnapee River watershed and the Sauk Creek watershed. The TMDL Study will take place over four years and be run by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). After the study is completed, farmers and businesses in the area could use the results for planning and management of their lands and water resources. Study results will also qualify farmers for federal grants in addressing this problem.

At this point, funding is only requested for 3 of the 10 impaired water bodies currently listed on the WDNR web page (http://dnr.wi.gov/water/impairedSearch.aspx). The first step to restoring these three major waterways is to determine the current level of pollutants, such as phosphorus and sediment, entering the waterbody from each potential source. This typically involves two to three years of water sampling and aquatic analysis. The following step is to determine the required reduction in pollution to meet water quality standards. At that point, a TMDL plan will be developed for a strategic framework to prioritize resources for water quality improvement efforts. Implementation of best management practices and compliance monitoring are the final steps toward meeting the targeted water quality values for use and aquatic life.

KARST GEO-REGION: Protect the public’s drinking water

Legislative Days delegates agenda:

Continue the rule-making process begun by the WDNR in 2016, to write new rules regarding animal waste management that take into account our region’s unique Karst geology.

During the 2015 Door/Kewaunee Legislative Days, delegates requested that the “one size fits all” regulations on nonpoint sources of pollution, including animal waste management, be tailored to account for the shallow soils over fractured carbonate bedrock geology. Well test results in Door and Kewaunee Counties showing unsafe conditions due to nitrates and bacteria in one-third or more of the wells tested illustrates that implementation of the statewide performance standards and prohibitions have not been sufficient to achieve groundwater standards in a very vulnerable Karst Geo-Region in Wisconsin.

Results:

In 2017, delegates thanked the State of Wisconsin for initiating the rule-making process, and requested that it continue without delay, so implementation of the new standards could begin as quickly as possible.

The WDNR released the proposed targeted performance standards in summer of 2017. WDNR held a public hearing and accepted written public comment until the beginning of October. WDNR is expected to provide a written response to the public comments this December. Next steps in the process include WDNR bringing the proposed targeted performance standards to the Natural Resources Board for adoption, approval by the Governor, and Legislative review/hearings in the winter of 2018.

The proposed targeted performance standards would have to be adopted as a rule before implementation can begin. Changes are specific to manure applications in targeted areas, where 20 feet or less of soil overlies Silurian bedrock. The standards include greater setbacks from wells and other direct conduits to groundwater, restrictions on manure applications on fields with two to five feet of soil over bedrock, and a prohibition on manure applications on fields with less than two feet of soil over bedrock.  Current soil survey maps give a general overview, but more detailed depth-to-bedrock studies will have to be done. Farms with a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit will have to comply with the proposed standards through their permit, regardless of any local ordinance and without cost share. Cost share will be required for farms without a CAFO permit, when construction of best management practices is necessary to comply.

SCHOOL START DATE – Oppose Repeal of Statewide Standard

Legislative Days Delegates request:

Due to Door and Kewanuee Counties’ reliance on the tourism economy and high school labor in the summer months, retain, do not change, the Statewide Standard School Starting Date, mandating schools begin on or after September 1.

Results:

School Start Date retained to September 1 or after.

Door and Kewaunee Counties helped ensure overall economic development and sustainable economic growth through crucial tourism dollars, via a young labor force that is crucial during a time of employee shortages.

BROADBAND FUNDING – Support proposed funding for improving rural broadband

Legislative Days Delegates request:

Approve SB-49 and its companion Assembly bill to increase funding for the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s Broadband Expansion Grant Program. The Governor increased broadband grant allocations in the 2015-17 biennial budget from $500,000 to $1.5 million annually. The Governor’s proposed 2017-19 biennial budget provides $11 million more for the program over the next several years.

These grants provide reimbursement for equipment and construction expenses incurred by efforts to extend or improve broadband telecommunications services in underserved regions of Wisconsin.

Results:

The budget for the grant program for the next biennium is currently set at $14.5 million, with a legislative minimum of $2 million per biennium thereafter.

Applications for the Broadband Expansion Grants are due at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin by January 25, 2018. Encourage your local broadband provider to apply and improve broadband speed and availability for Door and Kewaunee Counties.

HARBOR ASSISTANCE PROGRAM – Consistent and adequate funding for the HAP

Legislative Days Delegates request:

Ensure that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Harbor Assistance Program is funded consistently and adequately to meet the long term needs of Wisconsin’s commercial harbors. We supported the recommendation for the 2017-2019 biennium of $15.4 million and urge future funding at adequate levels to meet the needs of all Wisconsin commercial harbors. Shipbuilding and harbor infrastructure are critical to maintaining thousands of jobs and adding more in Door and Kewaunee Counties. The DOT’s Harbor Assistance Program provides critical additional support that is essential to the maintenance and development of necessary infrastructure.

Results:
Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding has secured a 2018 budget appropriation of $3.2 million from the state HAP fund for south dock wall improvements.

The purpose of Door Kewaunee Legislative Days is to educate state elected officials about Door and Kewaunee Counties, and to lobby for state action to help address local issues and concerns. This year’s events built directly on the success of prior Legislative Days events in odd-numbered years 2003 – 2015, which brought the specific concerns of our communities directly to elected representatives and influential government appointees.