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New phosphorus rules approved to improve Wisconsin water quality

News Release Published: June 23, 2010 by the Central Office

Contact(s): Russ Rasmussen (608) 267-7651

MADISON - Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank applauded today's action by the state Natural Resources Board to approve a comprehensive strategy to improve the water quality of Wisconsin's lakes, rivers and streams.

The rules proposed by the DNR address phosphorous and other nutrient pollution as well as erosion and sedimentation that degrade water quality.

"These rules will reduce pollution that contributes to the algae blooms and excessive weeds that foul our beaches and our waters," Frank said. "Restoring healthy watersheds means cleaner beaches, more swimmable lakes, improved public health, healthier fisheries and wildlife habitat. Wisconsin's beautiful lakes and streams support our economy, our recreation and our great quality of life."

The rules approved by the board address both "point" and "non-point" sources of pollution, including factories, municipal water treatment systems, agricultural sources, and urban and suburban storm water run-off. For the first time, science-based numerical water quality standards for phosphorous are established.

"This comprehensive approach means that we will identify and work pro-actively with all sources that contribute to poor water quality in a watershed," Frank said. "We will rely on solid data to take actions that achieve maximum environmental benefits in the most cost-effective manner possible. These rules strike a good balance between creating a solid path to cleaner water and providing flexibility in implementation."

Frank added, "Under the leadership of Gov. Jim Doyle, we have made great progress in improving the health of Wisconsin's waters and in strengthening our economy. We protected permanent funding to help farmers with nutrient management planning and non-point pollution controls. We are increasing funding for municipal water treatment systems. We are supporting the development of a green energy economy to power our farms, factories, communities and our infrastructure. All of these efforts contribute to sustainable economic growth, making Wisconsin competitive in a global economy while protecting our outstanding natural resources and quality of life."

Phosphorus - numeric standards key

Included in the package are numeric water quality criteria for rivers, streams and lakes that will prove pivotal in determining phosphorus levels to keep waters clear of algae and safe for recreational activities. Wisconsin has 172 lakes and streams on the impaired waters list for phosphorus.

Frank said that with this package, Wisconsin becomes the first state in the country to create these water quality standards for rivers, lakes and streams - and that includes the Great Lakes as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Partners, cost-sharing in management, enforcement

Wisconsin will also become the first state to put in place an adaptive management approach that promotes cooperation among point (end-of-pipe or stack) and non-point (run-off) pollution sources to find the most cost-effective means to reduce phosphorus and other pollutants.

These rules build on Wisconsin law that requires the state to partner with the agriculture community and provide cost-sharing dollars. DNR will work with county land conservation experts and farmers to help producers use the best management practices to curb pollution all while helping to incent the most cost-effective solutions. Under this provision, the DNR will provide up to 70 percent to share the farmers' costs of implementing non-point pollution controls to meet the standards - as part of a positive enforcement of the rules.

Frank thanked the following organizations for providing valuable input into the rule package passed by the Natural Resources Board.

  • Wisconsin Dairy Business Association
  • Wisconsin Farm Bureau
  • Clean Wisconsin
  • Sierra Club
  • Wisconsin Environment
  • Midwest Environmental Associates
  • The Wisconsin River Alliance
  • The Potato and Vegetable Growers Association
  • Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association
  • The Wisconsin Pork Association
  • The Wisconsin Cattlemen's Association
  • Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
  • Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District
  • Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District
  • Municipal Environmental Group
  • Wisconsin Corn Growers Association

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Last Revised: Wednesday, June 23, 2010