Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Restoring intent of programs

by Neal Kedzie - State Senator

March 01, 2012

Kedzie
MADISON — The Wisconsin State Senate gave its final approval to senate Bill 368, the State Wetlands and Mitigation Program (SWAMP) initiative authored by Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn), which revises the original Wetland Mitigation Program, a bill he co-authored in 1999.

Kedzie said Bill 368 restores the original intent of the program, and maintains a balance between environmental protection and economic development.

"Twelve years ago, the wetland mitigation program was created to provide an option for the DNR to utilize for proposed projects which may impact a marginal wetland — the intent was to use the program for the benefit of both the environment and economy," Kedzie said. "Over the last 10 years, I have monitored the performance of the program, and believe reasonable changes are needed in order to uphold the original legislative intent — Senate Bill 368 meets that goal."

Kedzie said the bill is the culmination of working with the Department of Natural Resources, industry groups, conservation organizations and the Army Corps of Engineers on a goal to fundamentally change the manner in which activities occurring in or near wetlands are reviewed, permitted, regulated, and at times, mitigated. In 2007, an audit of the mitigation program was performed by the Legislative Audit Bureau, which recommended many of the changes made in SB 368.

"The bill strikes a necessary balance between economic and environmental benefits by providing more flexibility for proposed projects, while at the same time, fostering more opportunities for the restoration and creation of high quality wetlands," he said.

Kedzie explained SB 368 allows for greater consideration of wetland mitigation projects to offset wetland impacts, while maintaining a policy for more and better wetlands created. The standard that any potential wetland impact be first avoided, then minimized, and then possibly mitigated remains intact in the bill. Mitigation will now be required for individual permits, and continue the "net-gain" policy for wetlands restored or created, which was also the intent of the original legislation.

The bill also mirrors many of the wetland permits currently issued by the federal government, which many believe will create more uniformity between state and federal regulations. Most importantly, Kedzie said under the bill the DNR maintains its ability to deny any wetland permit if it believes a proposed project will lead to significant harm to the environment or functional value of a wetland.

"The DNR is and will continue to be the final decision-maker in the application process and the steward of Wisconsin's wetlands — nothing in the bill changes that responsibility," Kedzie concluded.

Editor's note: This information is from a press release from Kedzie's office.