Aquatic Invasive Species
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are a serious threat to the health of our lakes, recreational opportunities like boating and fishing enjoyed by many citizens and visitors, and tourism related businesses and services. They also threaten the investment that the state and many citizens have made to improve lake water quality and habitat.
Wisconsin Lakes supports increased funding for AIS research, grant, education, and prevention programs, as well as policy initiatives that will help Wisconsin prevent and manage AIS. Our recent work on AIS issues is detailed in the sections below.
Wisconsin Lakes supports closing this gap in current law and is working to pass a bill in this legislative session that improves upon the policy adopted later by the legislature in the special session budget repair bill.
A bill introduced in the current 2009-2010 legislative session (SB 123, AB 162) offers some technical changes to improve upon the “illegal to transport” language that was passed in the supplemental budget bill in May of 2008 (see below section). This bill would prohibit the transport of aquatic plants or animals on a vehicle of any kind on a public highway and several other important and necessary changes. Wisconsin Lakes is advocating on behalf of our membership for this bill.
Read Wiaconsin Lakes' testimony to the Senate and Assembly committee on 2009-2010 AB 162 / SB 123
In the 2007-2008 legislative session, Wisconsin Lakes supported a bill (SB 454, AB 821) that would have made it illegal to operate motor vehicles and recreational trailers on highways if they have aquatic plants attached. Wisconsin Lakes supported this bill, which passed the State Senate, but died in Assembly committee.
Read WAL's testimony to Senate committee on 2007-2008 Senate Bill 454 (PDF 22 KB)
The DNR is promulgating a new administrative rule to classify and regulate invasive species (NR 40). These rules apply to aquatic and land dwelling species of invasive plants, animals, and pathogens.
The rule—which has been under development for the last four years—classify invasive species into two categories: prohibited and restricted. The rule also requires several preventative measures to limit spread of invasive species, and includes permit and enforcement provisions.
The Natural Resources Board unanimously approved the Invasive Species Classification rule (NR 40) on April 22, 2009. The rule will now move forward to the legislature for approval. All of Wisconsin Lakes' concerns from the initial draft were satisfactorily addressed in the final proposal.
Download Wisconsin Lakes' 2009 testimony to the NRB (PDF 13 KB)
Wisconsin Lakes submitted public comments August 27, 2008 on these rules identifying several gaps.
Download Wisconsin Lakes' 2008 comments to DNR on NR 40 (PDF 54 KB)
In March of 2009, 25 fishing, environmental and conservation groups—including the Wisconsin Association of Lakes—signed on to official comments supporting strong ballast water regulations by the Wisconsin DNR. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is proposing a general permit for commercial vessels, which includes effluent discharge standards for ballast water.
In March 2008, the DNR determined it has legal authority to regulate ballast water discharges under current law that implements the Federal Clean Water Act. The Federal Clean Water Act requires that anyone discharging “biological materials” (which can include aquatic invasive species and diseases) into Wisconsin waters have a discharge permit.
The determination was made in response to a December 5, 2007 petition by 13 state, national and local conservation groups (including the Wisconsin Lakes). The petition argued that Wisconsin already has authority to regulate ballast water under the Clean Water Act, which requires that anyone discharging “biological materials” (such as aquatic invasive species and diseases) into Wisconsin waters have a discharge permit. After reviewing this petition, the DNR agreed that Wisconsin’s current state law and permitting system could be used to regulate and require treatment of ballast water.
In 2006, a Federal Court ruled that ballast water met the definition of “biological pollution”, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must begin regulating ballast water discharges from freighters under the Clean Water Act by Sept. 30, 2008.
Federal legislation was introduced in the 2007 and 2008, but did not make it through Congress.
Read the Ballast Water Petition to DNR (PDF 16 KB)
Read background on legal authority for state to permit ballast water(PDF 12 KB)
In 2008, a special session was called for legislators to address a budgetary shortfall in the current 2007-2009 state budget. The resulting "budget repair bill" that was passed also contain provisions regarding transportation of AIS.
The budget repair bill specifies that “no person may transport a boat, boat trailer, or boating equipment on a public roadway if that equipment has an invasive species (plant or animal), as specified by administrative rule, in, or attached to it,” with some limited exceptions. The bill also establishes a penalty for violations of up to $1000, and is enforceable by DNR Conservation Wardens and other law enforcement officials.
The budget repair bill also specified that “no person may possess, release, control, store, sell, or transport, any fish, or viable fish eggs that are of an invasive species, if the person knows, or should know, that the fish is, or the eggs of the fish are, of an invasive species.”
While this bill prohibits the transport of invasive species on boat trailers—not aquatic plants, and other materials that may contain invasive species—it is a positive step to help prevent AIS introduction. WAL anticipates an additional bill will be necessary in the 2009-2011 legislative session to make technical clarifications.
The DNR is revising its Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Grant program rule (NR 198) in response to increased funding for the program and other changes included in the 2007-2009 budget. (see below).
The proposed revisions, would increase the cost share rate to up to 75% the cost of the project (currently the cost share is limited to 50%), expand the eligible recipients of AIS grants, allow applicants proposing chemical treatments to control invasive species to receive higher priority if their projects achieved another environmental protection goal—like restoring habitat or helping control pollution. Another proposed change would allow communities that are successfully following state rules and managing existing populations of aquatic invasive species to recoup the aquatic plant management permit fees they now pay.
Wisconsin Lakes submitted public comments on these rules on August 26th, 2008. We anticipate that the Natural Resources Board will approve forwarding of these rules to the Legislature for final approval in the 2009 legislative session.
Download WAL's 2008 comments to DNR on NR 198 (PDF 57 KB)
The legislature increased funding for Aquatic Species grants by 250% in the 2007-2009 biennial budget. The total funding available in the previous budget was $3 million ($1.5 million annually). The total amount available in the 2007-2009 budget is $7.6 million.
Eligible projects funded by these grants include AIS education, watercraft inspection activities at the boat landings, pioneer AIS population control, established AIS populations control and restoration of native aquatic plants.
In addition to the significant increases in overall funding, the budget increased the percentage of cost share that is reimbursable for AIS grant projects by 25%. Consistent with other lake grants, up to 75% of the costs of eligible projects are now reimbursable.
Read Wisconsin Lakes' letter to Senators regarding AIS in the state budget (PDF 36 KB)
In 2003, the Wisconsin legislature directed the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to promulgate rules to establish a program to authorize and regulate fishing tournaments (Wisconsin 2003 Act 249). The 2003 law was passed in response to growing citizen complaints about tournaments, including perceived problems with crowding at boat ramps, concern over fish dying after being caught during tournaments, and other factors.
Fishing tournaments bring many visitors to our lakes. Wisconsin Lakes feels tournament rules should include:
-Ensure all boaters take steps to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species from lake to lake.
-Require notification of local governments prior to a tournament, as many Towns and Lake Districts may have passed boating ordinances specific to their lakes.
-Limit the number of boats in a tournament so that an individual lake's capacity to handle those boats is not exceeded.
The DNR developed the rule proposals with the input of an advisory group which included fishing clubs, fishing tournament organizers, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the Wisconsin Lakes, and other groups.
After four years of work, Wisconsin Lakes felt the Department developed a reasonable rule that balanced diverse interests and resource needs.
Under the rule approved by the NRB in February 2008 and approved by the legislature in May 2008, all tournament participants are required to follow state laws and rules aimed at preventing the spread of invasive species such as Eurasian water-milfoil and zebra mussels and of a new fish disease, viral hemorrhagic septicemia. In addition, DNR has the authority to establish additional permit conditions to prevent the spread of invasives.
Read Wisconsin Lakes' 2008 testimony to the Assembly Natural Resources Committee (PDF 27 KB)
Read Wisconsin Lakes' 2008 comments to DNR on NR 20.40 (PDF 27 KB)
Read Wisconsin Lakes' 2006 comments to DNR on NR 20.40 (PDF 17 KB)