Assembly approves bill to allow more development of wetlands under state control.

MADISON – The state Assembly ventured into the contentious waters of wetlands this week, sending to the Senate a bill to roll back regulations designed to avoid or minimize construction on these ecologically important lands.

The legislation has emerged as the biggest battle this year between business and conservation groups, with proponents saying the changes will give more leeway in building while environmentalists have decried the potential impact on flooding and water quality.

The measure, Assembly Bill 547, passed, 58-39, late Thursday.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) said the bill was tailored to address a small subset of wetlands that have slowed development, particularly in urban areas.

First an aside: I find it amusing that a rural legislator is concerned about development in urban areas with this bill when they are totally antagonistic to the two largest urban areas in Wisconsin on nearly every other piece of legislation they pass.

As someone with a rural background as a child…who appreciates wetlands large and small…I oppose this bill. That’s probably obvious from some of my past posts. But it is apparent this thing will pass and there is no doubt that the governor will sign it. So I have suggestions for three amendments.

One: Property insurers should be exempt from covering flood damage for properties built on filled in wetlands.

Two: Developers should cover potential flood damages on the wetlands they fill in…they should have trust funds for such coverage…and if they are no longer available…responsibility falls to the State of Wisconsin.

Three: Deeds must disclose that properties or improvements were built on reclaimed wetlands.

I don’t think individual property owners, particularly future property owners with no knowledge of the history of their property, should suffer flood losses caused by the negligence and greed of developers.

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