News and Releases from Around the State

WMC: Thanks Governor Walker for signing phosphorus reform into law 

4/23/2014- This week Governor Walker signed Senate Bill (SB) 547, monumental reform regarding the state’s phosphorus discharge requirements, and the reform drew praise from the Wisconsin chamber of commerce.

Eric Bott, Director of Energy and Environmental Policy for Wisconsin’s Chamber of Commerce – WMC – issued the following statement regarding passage of SB 547:

“WMC thanks Governor Walker for his leadership in addressing this critical issue to Wisconsin employers and municipalities. The Governor’s actions are likely to save hundreds, if not thousands of family supporting jobs in quintessential Wisconsin industries like paper production, cheese making, and food processing.

“Wisconsin’s existing phosphorus regulations are some of the most stringent in the nation and would have mandated that employers invest hundreds of millions, and perhaps billions of dollars on compliance technology that would have had only modest impacts on our environment at best. With the stroke of the Governor’s pen, these employers should now have a better tool to address phosphorus impairment in Wisconsin’s waterways in a smarter, more cost effective way.”

For more information, please contact Eric Bott at 608- 258-3400.


DNR: Reducing Phosphorus to Clean Up Lakes and Rivers

Phosphorus has long been recognized as the controlling factor in plant and algae growth in Wisconsin lakes and streams. Small increases in phosphorus can fuel substantial increases in aquatic plant and algae growth, which in turn can reduce recreational use, property values, and public health:

• One-quarter of the more than 700 waterbodies on Wisconsin’s impaired waters list fail to meet water quality standards due to phosphorus pollution.

• Dozens of waters statewide experience harmful algal blooms fueled by the nutrient, posing a health threat to people, pets and livestock. Over the past 3 years, 98 people have reported health complaints related to such blooms.

• Smelly cladophora fueled by phosphorus washes ashore Lake Michigan beaches.

• Recent statewide stream assessment data suggests that thousands of streams may have excess phosphorus levels. In addition to decreasing the dissolved oxygen that fish and other aquatic creatures need to survive, such excess phosphorus causes major changes in lake and stream food webs, which ultimately result in fewer fish and fish predators.

Where phosphorus comes from

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient that occurs naturally, mainly as phosphate, and has been mined for use in fertilizer, detergent and animal feed. It’s in our food, in our waste, and in that of other animals.

Phosphorus entering our lakes and streams comes from “nonpoint” or “runoff” pollution. Such pollution occurs when heavy rains and melting snow wash over farm fields and feedlots and carry fertilizer, manure and soil into lakes and streams, or carry phosphorus-containing contaminants from urban streets and parking lots.

Phosphorus also comes from the “point sources” – piped wastes such as municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants that release liquid effluent to lakes and rivers or spread sludge on fields; and from natural sources, including past phosphorus loads that build up in lake bottom sediments.

How much these sources contribute to phosphorus problems in a lake or river varies widely based on land use in a watershed and the number of point sources discharging into that lake or river. There are situations where runoff contributes more than 80 percent of the phosphorus, and situations where point sources contribute more than 80 percent. Most commonly, both point sources and nonpoint sources contribute phosphorus.

DNR Phosphorus Pollution Media Kit


Independent police investigations now state law

4/23/2014 – Wisconsin becomes the first state to require independent investigations

Governor Walker signed into law a bill requiring outside investigators to take the lead on deaths involving law enforcement officers. The law makes Wisconsin the first in the nation to require an independent investigation of officer-involved deaths.

Bill authors Rep. Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) were joined at the bill signing by families of the deceased, law enforcement, and community advocates who worked together over the last year and half to find consensus on language for the bill.

“I am proud to be surrounded today by all those who helped make today’s bill signing a reality,” said Bies. “There has always been agreement that if the initial investigation isn’t handled correctly everything spirals downhill from there. The public begins to lose trust in police-officers and that leaves our officers in harm’s way. An independent investigation process allows all parties involved to move forward with some peace of mind.”

The law requires that the team of investigators include two individuals from a law enforcement agency outside the agency involved, one of whom must serve as the lead investigator. Additionally, the law requires the victim’s family be given information on their legal rights and the investigation must be publicly released if no criminal charges are filed by the District Attorney against the officer involved. These provisions were especially important to the families who had difficulty navigating the often complicated legal system.

“When a tragedy of any kind occurs it is felt by everyone in the community,” said Taylor. “I’m honored to represent a community of people who despite their grief were able to find a way to impact a positive change for the betterment of everyone in our state.”

A public opinion poll conducted by St. Norbert’s College, found that 81 percent of Wisconsin residents supported a law requiring outside investigations of officer-involved deaths.

“Together, we’d like to thank the families who made countless trips to the capitol to share their personal stories. We’d also like to thank law enforcement for working with us on finding the right balance that provides independence, yet doesn’t infringe on their ability to protect and serve our communities,” expressed Rep. Bies and Taylor. “This bill is an excellent example of how all sides can come together on a highly-emotional issue and find common ground.”

For More Information, contact: Rep. Garey Bies: 608-266-5350; Rep. Chris Taylor: 608-266-5342.ν



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