Fewer wetlands could result in increased flooding, lower water quality

MADISON — In a move that could set the stage for increased flooding, lower water quality and an economic loss for the state’s recreation industry, the State Assembly voted to significantly roll back protections for Wisconsin’s wetlands tonight by passing AB 463/SB 368.

“This is a disappointing vote that could allow thousands of acres of valuable wetlands to be unnecessarily filled and destroyed,” said Amber Meyer Smith, government relations director at Clean Wisconsin. “Destroying wetlands means more flooding, reduced water quality, less habitat for sensitive species, and a hit to our recreation industry in Wisconsin.”
 
The bill passed today makes it easier to destroy wetlands by allowing developers to fill and mitigate wetlands as a first course of action instead of trying to avoid them.
 
“Asking developers to first try to avoid destroying wetlands is common sense,” said Smith. “Wetlands are an important part of our environment that reduce flooding and help keep the water in our lakes, rivers and streams clean. We thank those legislators who stood up for wetlands by opposing this bill.”
 
Wetlands reduce flooding by collecting rainwater and runoff much like a sponge. Wetlands also improve water quality by slowing down and filtering sediment and pollutants from stormwater and snowmelt.
 
“Wetlands contribute more than $3.2 billion in free services to Wisconsin’s economy each year,” said Smith. “Healthy wetlands are also a key factor in our state’s outdoor recreation economy, a $3.8 billion industry that supports 72,000 jobs. Rolling back protections for wetlands is a shortsighted move that will hurt our economy, not help it.”