March 28th, 2024

NEWS RELEASE:                                                                                                                 For More Information:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                  Contact: Senator Robert Cowles ~ (608) 266-0484


Lakefront Revitalization Effort Signed into Law

GREEN BAY – Senator Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) released the following statement after 2023 Senate Bill 541 was signed into law as 2023 Wisconsin Act 247:

“The public trust doctrine is at the forefront of environmental protection in Wisconsin. This constitutional principle is the bedrock on which public use of thousands of lakes and rivers around the state is preserved, ensuring our high quality of life and ample tourism industry. Unfortunately, some activists have abused the public trust doctrine to block or threaten to block environmentally-sound public development all because the property was once lakebed, even though it has typically been filled for longer than our lifetimes.

“Historically-filled lands are legally a gray area, leaving municipalities and businesses in the dark as they choose not to build along shorelines due to this legal limbo. Great Lakes communities like Duluth have a much more active and revitalized shoreline as a result of their clearer legal picture on historically-filled lands. This drives public-private partnerships that work for all members of the community and brings visitors to the area, resulting in a healthier economy as a result of this development. Meanwhile, many Great Lakes cities and villages in Wisconsin have shorelines that are littered with abandoned and sometimes contaminated industrial sites, vacant lands with no public use, and underutilized parking lots in these otherwise desirable waterfront locations.

“Act 247 is a substantial step towards fixing this legal limbo by authorizing waterfront development plans, which are driven by a local government in partnership with businesses, require a public input process, are approved by the DNR, and incorporate public access and interest in the future use. We don’t need to tradeoff between public use and enjoyment and private development, and this new law recognizes the reality that we can put these idle parcels to their highest and best use without any risk of interfering with the enjoyment of navigable waters. I was happy to help work on this legislation in my role as Committee Chair, and want to thank the authors, Senator Stroebel and Representative Wittke, the supporters, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and Wisconsin Realtors Association, and the Department of Natural Resources for crafting a bill that can be signed into law.”