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Lake Beulah Management District v. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Citation: 41 ELR 20230
No. 2008AP3170, (Wis., 06/07/2011)

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin upheld the state environmental agency's decision to issue a permit to a town for a municipal well. Two groups challenged the agency's decision to issue the permit without considering the well's potential impact on nearby Lake Beulah, a navigable water. A circuit court affirmed the agency's decision, but the appellate court reversed. It held that the agency has the authority and duty to consider the environmental impact of a proposed high capacity well if presented with sufficient scientific evidence suggesting potential harm to waters of the state and that the agency was presented with such evidence in this case. It therefore remanded the case. Wisconsin's highest court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The agency has the authority and a general duty to consider whether a proposed high capacity well may harm waters of the state. To comply with this general duty, the agency must consider the environmental impact of a proposed high capacity well when presented with sufficient concrete, scientific evidence of potential harm to waters of the state. The court, therefore, affirmed that part of the appellate court's decision. However, based on the record on review, the agency was not presented with sufficient concrete, scientific evidence of potential harm to waters of the state. The court, therefore, reversed the appellate court's remand and affirmed the agency's decision to issue the 2005 permit.