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Judge tosses well permits, citing waterway protections

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Dane County judge has tossed out eight high-capacity well permits the state had granted to businesses, citing the constitutionally guaranteed protections of Wisconsin waterways.

Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn issued a decision on Wednesday in a case brought by the conservation group Clean Wisconsin. It said the Department of Natural Resources issued well permits despite concerns from its own scientists about the substantial harm that massive water withdrawals could have on vulnerable lakes, streams and drinking-water supplies.

The case is the latest outbreak of a longstanding controversy over high-capacity wells and their effects on waterways and aquatic life, especially in central Wisconsin.

Under pressure from industrial well users and a Republican-controlled Legislature, the DNR made a policy change in June 2016 that led to the approval of 190 high-capacity well permits in a matter of months.

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