January 16, 2020

Contact: Senator Robert Cowles: (608) 266-0484

Promoting a Smart Approach to Reduce Flooding Events 

MADISON– Senator Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) released the following statement after 2019 Senate Bill 631 was unanimously recommended for passage by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy  yesterday and its companion legislation, 2019 Assembly Bill 701, was heard by the Assembly Committee on Environment earlier today. This legislation, which promotes projects that restore natural stream hydrology, is authored by Senators Cowles and Janet Bewley (D-Mason) and Representatives Loren Oldenburg (R-Viroqua), and Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna): 

“As flooding becomes more common, many Wisconsin residents are searching for ways to decrease the number of flooding events and lessen the damage to homes, businesses, and farms. While flooding impacts each corner of the state, my district also faces problems with flooding in Green Bay, Shiocton, and Freedom. These communities have been looking for solutions for years, and sometimes decades to address their short and long-term concerns. I’ve authored Senate Bill 631 to offer another alternative to addressing flooding concerns in the long-run for localities in the 2nd Senate District and throughout the state by simplifying the permitting process for hydrologic restoration projects that are a net benefit to waterbodies, watersheds, and communities.

“Better preparation for flooding events today can help to save millions of dollars in damages and hardship for hundreds, if not thousands of residents, small businesses, and industry tomorrow. This legislation simply ensures that, as a state, we’re promoting preparedness through conservation while still ensuring that each project is in property owners’, our community’s, and our environment’s best interest.”

Senate Bill 631 requires the DNR to issue a general permit that authorizes wetland, stream, and floodplain restoration and management activities that will result in a net benefit to hydrologic connections, conditions, and functions. Projects shall be designed to return hydrology to a natural and self-regulating condition in order to:

  • Improve water quality 
  • Increase upper watershed storage 
  • Slow the flow of runoff 
  • Increase soil resilience 
  • Restore surface and groundwater interactions 
  • Reduce flood peaks 
  • Increase flood resilience 
  • Increase base flow 
  • Increase groundwater infiltration

This legislation was drafted with the support of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association and in consultation with the Department of Natural Resources, and has already garnered the support of conservation groups including Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, experts in the field including the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, local government organizations including the Towns Association, League of Municipalities and Counties Association, and the Wisconsin Realtors Association.