MADISON — Shoreline
property owners would have more leeway to dredge and build
structures on bodies of water under legislation the
Wisconsin Assembly advanced Tuesday despite concerns from
minority Democrats that the proposals would harm the state's
The bill would make sweeping
changes to statutes and regulations governing construction
in water bodies, with one of the biggest changes involving
waters designated as areas of special natural resource
interests, or ASNRIs.
Under current law, such areas
include waters of significant scientific value that contain
endangered or threatened species, wild rice waters,
ecologically significant coastal wetlands along Lakes
Michigan and Superior and wild or scenic rivers.
Construction permits in such areas require builders to meet
a long list of standards.
The bill would remove the
requirement that an ASNRI have significant scientific value
and prevent the Department of Natural Resources from
designated an ASNRI based on scientific value without
legislative approval beginning in 2017.
The legislation also includes
changes that would make dredging and filling wetlands
The bill would create a
general permit authorizing shoreline property owners to
dredge 25 cubic yards of material from an inland lake and
100 cubic yards of material from outlying waters annually.
The DNR's review of alternatives to filling wetlands would
be limited to options consistent with the scope of the
project and maintenance work on roadside ditches that
affects wetlands could be done without a permit.
The measure's authors, Rep.
Adam Jarchow of Balsam Lake and Sen. Frank Lasee of De Pere,
contend the measure will cut red tape, clarify regulations
and puts more power in property owners' hands. A host of
business associations, including Wisconsin Manufacturers and
Commerce, the state's largest business group, and the
Wisconsin Builders Association, support the bill.
A number of environmental
groups, including Clean Wisconsin, the Clean Lakes Alliance
and the state's Sierra Club chapter, oppose it. Assembly
Democrats railed against the bill on the chamber floor,
warning the measure gives shoreline property owners
permission to damage water bodies and aquatic habitats.
"You do not go into a
body of water with a general permit and start dredging
things up and think you're making things better," Rep.
Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, said. "This is bad for
Wisconsin. This is bad for Wisconsin's outdoor heritage. It
will damage things."
Republicans control the
chamber, thought, and in the end lawmakers adopted the bill
on a 57-39 vote. The bill goes next to the state Senate.
The Assembly also passed
another bill Tuesday sponsored by Jarchow and Lasee that
would expand property owners' rights. The measure prohibit
counties from imposing development moratoriums, forbid
municipalities from blocking property owners from selling or
transferring the title to their land and block counties from
regulating repairs on structures legally located in shore
land setback areas.
The bill also would require
judges to resolve any question about the meaning of a zoning
ordinance in favor of property owners. Undeveloped land
zoned for residential, commercial or manufacturing use would
be taxed at 50 percent of its value.
The Assembly passed that bill
on a 56-39 vote with almost no debate. It now goes to the
Senate as well.