By Chris Vetter
Aug. 16—CHIPPEWA FALLS — Gov. Tony Evers announced a $10 million program Tuesday to assist in treating or replacing wells across the state.
"Every Wisconsinite should be able to trust the water coming out of their taps," Evers said in announcing the funding, which will come from federal dollars through the American Rescue Plan Act.
Evers said upgrading wells isn't just an environmental issue; he called it an economic issue and a health issue. He added that using the federal dollars was a better option than trying to get the measure through the state Legislature.
"Fighting it out in the Legislature doesn't make sense to me," Evers said.
Preston Cole, Department of Natural Resources secretary, said 800,000 state residents get their water from wells, and he believes 1,000 wellheads will be reclaimed with these grants. Any farm, rural home, daycare, tavern, restaurant, etc., can receive 100% funding to upgrade their well, up to a $16,000 cap.
"There are far too many people in Wisconsin with challenges with their drinking water," Cole said. "The goal is clean water for all; no more, no less. This is a much needed shot in the arm."
State Rep. Katrina Shankland, (D-Stevens Point), said she has been pushing legislation on drinking water for years.
"This is a meaningful and creative solution," Shankland said. "This program will help so many Wisconsin families be able to drink from their taps. Everyone in Wisconsin deserves access to clean water; that's why today's announcement is so timely and important."
Shankland reiterated that the first $16,000 of any project will be covered. A well needs to have been inspected in the last two years to qualify for the money.
"It shows the gravity and urgency of this issue," she said.
Dick Leinenkugel, president of Leinenkugel's Brewing Company, led a tour of the plant, explaining to the governor how they've donated to water projects on Lake Wissota and worked to reduce water runoff and waste at the plant. He praised their parent company, Molson Coors.
"They are investing in the plant, including in projects that save energy," Leinenkugel told Evers.
In his closing remarks, Evers praised the company, saying "It's a place that works very hard to be sustainable, even before being sustainable was cool. I think it's why you are so successful. You are a company that respects the environment."
Leinenkugel said it was an honor to have the governor visit the plant for the first time.
"It's great to have Gov. Evers here to talk about water and sustainability projects we are doing here at Leinies," he said.