Natural Resources Committee Considers Water Study | News


The Burnett County Natural Resources Committee will meet next Thursday, April 14, where one of the matters they will be discussing is possibly entering into a contract for a comprehensive county-wide groundwater survey, conducted by a third parties, in the context of the ongoing over-discussion and the impact of large-scale animal and/or agricultural operations, which they also address in committee.

Last month, the committee heard from county conservationist Dave Ferris, who said he was considering contracting a UW-Whitewater professor to conduct and lead a groundwater inventory. Ferris said he originally hoped to get a proposal from the Wisconsin Geological Natural History Survey, but said they were understaffed at the moment so they haven’t received any information.

He prepared an agreement in principle with Dr. George Kraft of UW-Whitewater, who would lead the study, which would be a general comprehensive survey that would include sampling of wells throughout the county and would take into account agricultural areas and would focus on geological mapping. They plan to send out a list of questions that need to be answered so they can make the proposal. Ferris thinks they should be able to get this up and running in 2023.

It also prepares a scope of work and a proposal with parameters for the discussion of site-specific groundwater studies.

Although not noted in the previous meeting, the groundwater study may also weigh in on the possible impacts that Crex Meadows wetland levels are having on nearby residences, but this can be clarified or discussed later.

Interim contact between Burnett County Lands – Division of Conservation and Professor George Kraft would clarify a study of current hydrogeological conditions. He will be paid hourly, with total reimbursement not to exceed $5,000, with any additional expenses to be approved as a contract update, before costs incurred.

Among the stipulations of the proposed contract, Dr. Kraft will review all USGS and other relevant groundwater documents near and around the Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area, review landowner information adjacent and will review and report on county-wide groundwater, including an in-person or Zoom presentation to the county council at the end.

The study has been discussed at multiple levels, including by several cities, in part over concerns about water pollution from the proposed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

The CAFO issue has been a hotbed of controversy for several years now and has led to several local moratoriums and actions by municipalities to establish controls or limits on proposed operations.

The study should also provide a clear and realistic “baseline snapshot” of current groundwater conditions, for comparison on any future impacts.

According to his biography, Dr. George Kraft is Professor Emeritus for UW-Whitewater, where he is Professor of Water Resources and Director of the Center for Watershed Science and Education. He holds positions at both the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point College of Natural Resources and UW – Extension.

Dr. Kraft’s position is largely dedicated to serving the citizens, communities, businesses, and governments of Wisconsin. He is passionate about outreach in the Wisconsin Idea tradition: “The borders of the University are the borders of the State,” he states in his biography.

Dr. Kraft’s outreach includes studies and awareness of how lakes and streams have been affected by groundwater pumping; modernize Wisconsin groundwater pumping management policy and laws, and the extent and impacts of groundwater nitrate and pesticide pollution. It also assists groups in the organization and management of their water resources.

Dr. Kraft’s research interests focus on issues of sustainability of water resources, particularly profitable agriculture and water impacts.

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