By Warren Bluhm
Members of the Kewaunee County Land & Water Conservation Committee on Tuesday unanimously endorsed the consensus recommendations presented in the Department of Natural Resources Groundwater Collaboration Workgroup Final Report last year.
Many of the recommendations for short-term solutions, compliance, and best management practices have already been implemented by county officials, but getting the full County Board to approve the list will make state agencies and legislators aware that “this is what Kewaunee County wants,” Supervisor Chuck Wagner said.
County Conservationist Davina Bonness said the recommendations, developed in a series of meetings by several workgroups over a period of months, represent a consensus of a very diverse group of stakeholders in the groundwater contamination issue.
“We had CAFOS, we had non-CAFOs, we had haulers, we had DNR and DATCP, we had everybody represented so there wasn’t a group that wasn’t at the table,” Bonness said.
“This has been out there long enough, I think enough people have seen it, and I think it’s time to move this stuff forward,” Wagner said.
This was the first meeting of the Land & Water Conservation Committee since County Chairman Robert Weidner announced in December that the Groundwater Task Force’s work was done and the committee would be assuming responsibility for attacking the groundwater problem.
A large number of wells in Kewaunee County are contaminated, especially in the northern part of the county with a thin layer of topsoil over porous karst bedrock.
The committee voted 4-0 to send the consensus recommendations to the full County Board for approval at its Jan. 19 meeting.
During the public comment time that opens the committee meeting, several speakers decried disbanding the task force, but former supervisor Bob Garfinkel pointed out that the task force was formed to spend about a year developing an action plan and its job was extended to about 20 months.
“I would like the committee to make sure that this promise by Bob Weidner is fulfilled, because there is a scare out there in the community that the work done is just going to be put on the shelf and forgotten,” Garfinkel said. “I’ve been on commissions, task forces, all kinds of study groups, most were mandated by school districts or state statutes or so on, and how many of those things were put on the shelf and never looked at again?”
Garfinkel said the task force did “exceptional” work that other counties could use as a model for how to approach big challenges.
“It was an example of government at its best,” he said in urging the committee to keep tackling groundwater issues.
Sue Weisser echoed the concern that the panel’s work not be ignored.
“The Groundwater Task Force opened our eyes. It was shut down too soon,” she said. “I hope we don’t develop cataracts.”