You may be wondering what happened to the less than awesome senate bill that threatened Wisconsin’s trout streams, S.B. 493, and it’s companion piece in the assembly, A.B. 640. In this case, no news is good news.
An amendment was offered by Tom Tiffany and accepted by the Committee on Sporting Heritage, Mining, and Forestry about a week after my original post. A second amendment was offered on the floor by Tom Tiffany in mid-February. These amendments addressed the major concerns surrounding the effect the bill would have on trout streams:
- It clarified that only artificial bodies of water can be used for fish farming, rather than natural water bodies.
- It clarified that only existing dams on existing fish farms will be exempt from the minimum flow law (the story is that this change was intended to help only a single fish farm, anyway).
- The amendment struck the section of bill that re-defined aquaculture as an “Agricultural Practice”. This prevents the state of Wisconsin from sharing the cost of the fish farm for utilizing better management practices.
- It clarifies that re-grading of a stream can only be done for the purpose of maintaining a existing fish farm.
Similar amendments were offered and accepted for A.B. 640. These amendments effectively render the bill relatively harmless to trout streams. At this point Trout Unlimited has gone from vehemently opposing this bill to essentially going dark, as a sort of concession to the amendments being accepted.
You may ask, why the sudden change of heart in the legislature? The overwhelming showing of opposition to S.B. 493 and A.B. 640 among the folks here in Wisconsin and elsewhere upset the legislature enough that they were willing to listen to and address the concerns of TU and other conservation groups. So if you e-mailed or call your representatives regarding this bill, thank you, it worked.
The amendments unfortunately don’t address aquaculture on the lower Wisconsin riverway. And there are still some other lousy bills out there, namely the groundwater bills A.B. 874 and S.B. 239 that seek to change how high capacity well permits are reviewed. And there are still other issues that are on the horizon, such as a proposal going forward to eliminate segregated conservation fees (i.e. trout, turkey, waterfowl stamps) in favor of a single conservation stamp, which threatens the $1.4 million in habitat improvement dollars the trout stamp provides to our state.
Still, this feels like a win.