Thursday, May 19, 2011
High-Capacity well threatens Trout Stream in Crawford County WI
Residents of a small town in western Wisconsin have raised a large red flag about a high-capacity well proposed near their community.
At the center of their concern, both real and symbolic, is a tinkling trout stream.
The groundswell of opposition to the project may carry regional and statewide significance.
First the proposal: Darrell Long of Lima, Ohio, has applied to construct a high-capacity well on 45 acres he owns near the Village of Mount Sterling in Crawford County.
The property is set among the scenic bluffs and valleys of the Driftless Area. The proposed well is 500 feet from the North Branch of Copper Creek, a Class 1 trout stream.
The well would withdraw a maximum of 500,000 gallons of groundwater per day.
For what purpose?
As stated on the application, the well would be used to "supply water to any nearby water users that may need an emergency supply of water, such as local public water supplies, fire departments and farming operations. In addition, the well may also be used for emergency water bottling purposes if there were to be an emergency situation that necessitated provision of bottled water. It would not be used for commercial water bottling purposes."
Local residents find the idea of an emergency water source "laughable," said Stephen Peck of Mount Sterling.
"No one here has ever needed that kind of help," said Peck, 55. "But if someone starts taking large volumes of water out of the ground and our wells go dry, then we might."
Residents like Peck are convinced that, despite the statement in the application, the valley's public water will be used for Long's personal economic gain.
Long is listed on a business website as contact for DPL Properties, LLC, a supplier of "bulk water and bottled water products for public consumption and manufacturing." The company is listed as a purveyor of "pure spring water" from "a deep aquifer" in "Wisconsin, United States." The product's brand name: "Mount Sterling Water."
Long is a podiatrist by profession; he has owned the property near Mount Sterling for about 25 years.
When reached by phone Wednesday, Long would not comment on his plans for DPL Properties.
"My wife and I plan to retire in Crawford County," said Long, 64. "The last thing I'd want to do would be to harm the water resource."
In order to construct the well, Long must obtain a high-capacity well approval under Chapter NR 812, Wisconsin Administrative Code. In addition, since it would be within 1,200 feet of a trout stream, it would be reviewed under NR 820 to determine whether it could result in significant adverse environmental impacts.
Larry Lynch, hydro geologist for the Department of Natural Resources, said the application was "unique."
"I'm not aware of any other application for emergency water supplies," Lynch said, adding that the department was taking the application at face value.
A decision on the application could come in three or four weeks, Lynch said.
According to a DNR review of the proposal, the well could result in "adverse impacts to the trout population" but "impacts to stream flow are expected to be minor." The report also stated "construction and operation of the well will have minimal social and economic impacts."
And it said this: "It is not expected that this well proposal will generate significant controversy."
Surely all sides agree the last prediction missed the mark.
Opposition turned red hot Monday at a meeting in Mount Sterling, the same day local residents learned about the well proposal and the public comment period expired.
"This is an outrage," Peck said.
Wisconsin Trout Unlimited issued a letter this week with its concerns about the project, asking for denial of the permit unless better safeguards for Copper Creek were included.
Trout fishing in the Driftless Area was found to have a $1.1 billion annual economic impact, according to a 2008 survey by Northstar Economics.
"Copper Creek is the heart and soul of the valley," Peck said. "No one here wants to see it put at risk."
Local outcry about the proposal has resulted in a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Town Shop in the Town of Utica. The DNR's Lynch will be at the meeting.
In 2000, a battle was waged over a high-capacity well in Adams County. That project, proposed near the Mecan River and by the bottled water company Perrier, was opposed by a coalition including local officials, residents, environmentalists and anglers, and ultimately defeated.
A taconite mine is being proposed in a 12-county area of northern Wisconsin.
The Mount Sterling high-capacity well is not on the scale of the Perrier proposal or the taconite mine.
But residents along Copper Creek are registering a word of warning along with their dissatisfaction.
"We're taxpayers and we hoped we could trust the government to look out for us and the resource," Peck said. "If people around the state have a local issue, they better be vigilant. None of us have a good feeling about this."
PLEASE write and voice your concern !
Posted by John McArdle at 7:34 PM