Ohnstad-authored Bipartisan Wetlands Bill Clears Legislature,
Now Goes to Governor
MADISON – Today bipartisan wetlands legislation co-authored by Representative Tod Ohnstad (DKenosha)
with Representative Ron Tusler (R - Harrison) and Senators Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and
Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) passed the Assembly unanimously, and after passing the Senate without
opposition last month, the bill now goes to Governor Evers to be signed into law.
The bill, Senate Bill 169, will require wetland mitigation to occur closer to the site of a development
project in order to better protect against flooding and preserve local habitats and groundwater filtration.
“Wetlands are fundamentally important for a number of environmental reasons and are critical to
minimizing potentially disastrous issues like flooding,” Representative Ohnstad said. “This bill builds
on our state’s strong environmental tradition and will make current laws more impactful, benefitting
land-owners, developers, and the public.”
The state’s existing wetland mitigation programs operate in in conjunction with United States Army
Corp of Engineers under federal law to offset permitted development in a particular area with the
creation of new wetlands or improvements to existing ones. However, currently that mitigation can
often take place a great distance from the location of the initial project. While it is positive to offset
losses to a particular wetland at another location, if the new wetland is too far from the area losing a
wetland the benefits can be diminished. This can leave the initial area potentially more vulnerable to
flooding or undermine the habitat and groundwater goals inherent to mitigation.
The proposal passed today is designed to steer wetland mitigation closer to the site of a development
project by requiring developers who elect to purchase mitigation bank credits to try to buy them near the
site and within the same hydrologic unit or watershed where possible. In addition to trying to ensure
mitigation takes place closer to the site of a redevelopment, the bill also makes changes to the schedule
for the release of mitigation bank credits. This makes mitigation efforts more appealing to entities
interested in doing this sort of work to expand activity in this field.
Representative Ohnstad worked closely on this proposal with S.R. Mills of Bear Development, a
prominent and respected developer based in Kenosha, as well as the Department of Natural Resources.
“This issue is particularly important in a region of the state undergoing substantial development like the
Greater Kenosha Area,” Rep. Ohnstad noted. “I was proud to work across the aisle and with impacted
industry professionals from my district to get this bill through the legislature, and I am hopeful that
Governor Evers will sign the bill in the near future.”