The Wisconsin Supreme Court has voted to accept two new cases, both arising from a dispute between the Village of East Troy and the Lake Beulah Management District over a proposed high-capacity well. Proponents argue the well is needed to support increased development; opponents charge that pumping millions of gallons of water per day will damage the lake and surrounding wetlands.
The Village of East Troy brought this appeal. The Village is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to overturn one portion of a Wisconsin Court of Appeals opinion. In the portion of the opinion with which the Village disagrees, the Court of Appeals says that the DNR may consider the Public Trust Doctrine when deciding whether to grant applications for new wells. The Village argues that the Public Trust Doctrine does not extend to groundwater, and that the DNR’s authority is limited to what the Legislature enacted in the state groundwater law. The Supreme Court is expected to decide, among other issues, the reach of the Public Trust Doctrine and the extent of the DNR’s authority to regulate groundwater.
This case arises from the Lake District’s attempt to circumvent DNR approval by passing an ordinance preventing operation of the well. The circuit court nullified the ordinance, saying it conflicted with state law. The Court of Appeals affirmed this ruling. The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether governmental entities, municipalities, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), or anyone else has the authority to consider adverse environmental impacts of high capacity wells with capacities to withdraw less than two million gallons per day.