NRB approves changes to manure rules

Cows are milked at Kinnard Farms in Kewaunee County Nov. 28, 2017. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

MADISON, Wis. (WLUK) -- The state Natural Resources Board on Wednesday endorsed new rules for what to do about spreading manure in several Northeast Wisconsin counties.

But some environmentalists worry those rules don't go far enough.

For the past two years, new regulations for spreading manure have been under review by the state Department of Natural Resources. Documented widespread contamination of drinking water in Kewaunee County prompted the push for change. Kewaunee County is home to a large concentration of cows and concentrated animal feeding operations.

"We expect clean water in the state of Wisconsin," said board member Frederick Prehn.

Under the new regulations approved by the NRB, farms with less than 2 feet of soil over the bedrock will not be allowed to apply any manure. Farms with soil over bedrock between 2 and 20 feet will face new restrictions in the amount of manure they can spread. Only 15 counties in the eastern part of the state would be affected by the new rules. Those counties include Brown, Calumet, Door, Fond du Lac, Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Outagamie in Northeast Wisconsin.

"This targets groundwater, focusing on pathogen reduction," said Maryanne Lowndes, DNR Runoff Management Section Chief.

The restrictions originally focused on the entire state but during the review process the DNR scaled back the counties affected. Dairy farmers expressed their support for the new measures.

"I think that this regulation is well within reason for what we're doing as farmers, which is how we can have less impact on our environment in the future?" said Don Niles, a farmer from Casco.

Environmentalists are happy with the restrictions approved but feel more counties should be included to protect the state's groundwater -- and that the restrictions could be tougher.

"It almost sounds like Kewaunee County ten years ago where everybody said 'don't worry about it' and then all of a sudden it went south pretty fast," said Jodi Parins, who lives in Kewaunee County.

The process is far from complete. From here, the rules move to the Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker for review, which could take a couple months. If approved, it will be up to the DNR to implement those rule changes.

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