Clean Water Update: Assembly action could add protection to 82 rivers designated as “Outstanding and Exceptional Waters”
September 6, 2006
Melissa Malott, Clean Wisconsin, 608-251-7020
MADISON — Clean Wisconsin’s Water Specialist, Will Hoyer, testified to the Senate Natural Resources and Transportation Committee on the Outstanding and Exceptional Resource Waters Proposal, which could potentially reclassify 1,100 northern Wisconsin river miles. “Outstanding and Exceptional Resource Waters” is the classification given by the State of Wisconsin to the healthiest rivers in the state. There are currently over 1,500 river segments classified as Outstanding or Exceptional. The 82 rivers proposed to be added to the list were first identified through the DNR’s Northern Rivers Initiative as providing excellent fish resources and recreational opportunities. Classification as Outstanding or Exceptional will help preserve these rivers as they are today.
Wisconsin’s economy and recreation are defined by its waters. Considering that the state Department of Tourism estimated that almost $12 billion dollars were spent on tourism in 2005 — one-third of which was spent on “eco-tourism”— it is clear that clean water and clean air are integral to maintaining Wisconsin’s appeal to tourism and recreation.
The Wisconsin Department of National Resources (DNR) conducted a study of the benefits of Outstanding and Exceptional rivers in Marinette County that included a survey of nearly 1,000 property owners and recreationalists. The study found that in Marinette County tourism annually generates more than $43 million and 1,135 full time jobs and that the top draws to the county were clean water, natural scenery, good fishing and wildlife viewing. In addition, 70% of the property owners surveyed said they were more likely to buy recreational property in areas with rivers classified as Outstanding or Exceptional.
The appeal of these special places in Wisconsin attracts development, which in turn can threaten the very quality of life that draws people there in the first place. The addition of these 40 segments to the Outstanding and Exceptional designation will not prevent development from occurring along their shores, but it will require an evaluation of the potential impacts of development. In addition, general or individual permits would be required for activities which have the potential to seriously impact our waters such as grading and dredging along riverbanks, wastewater treatment plants and high capacity wells.
The waters in Wisconsin belong to everyone, and it is our responsibility to ensure that clean water is available to future generations by designating these additional stretches of water as Outstanding and Exceptional waters.
The Assembly Committee is expected to hold a hearing on this issue in mid-to-late September. Stay tuned for that.
Click here for a map of rivers proposed for protection.