Research On Phosphorus Impact Now Complete

New economic impact studies that were required by the legislature for new rules aimed at cutting phosphorus from wastewater dischargers, as well as shoreland zoning regulations for protecting water quality and habitat, are now finished. The research was conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison under contract with the Department of Natural Resources, which says phosphorus has long been recognized as the controlling factor in plant and algae growth in Wisconsin lakes and streams.

As part of the rules, which took effect in December 2010, the DNR must determine the phosphorus discharge limits a municipal or industrial wastewater discharger must meet based on the condition and quality of a watershed. Limits can vary depending on whether a waterway is already impaired by phosphorus, among other factors, according to Jim Baumann, of DNR’s Water Quality Bureau.

“DNR can include a compliance schedule in a discharger’s Clean Water Act permits if phosphorus discharge limits are either new or more stringent than in the past,” Baumann said. “When the operators receive those permits, they are given time to evaluate compliance options and have a maximum seven to nine years to come into compliance with their phosphorus limits.”

He notes that traditional compliance options at municipal facility like upgrades and variances are available as well as innovative compliance options such as adaptive management and water quality trading. These novel compliance options are designed to achieve compliance with phosphorus limits in the most cost- effective manner possible.

Agricultural operators also are being required to cut phosphorus under revised runoff rules effective January 1, 2011.

Meanwhile, a second economic impact analysis looks at new shoreland zoning requirements aimed at reducing polluted runoff entering lakes and rivers and protecting fish and wildlife habitat. The report predicts the expected outcomes of changes to minimum shoreland zoning standards that became effective February 2010.

Earlier this year, Governor Scott Walker and the DNR board granted approval to the agency to begin the rulemaking process again to further amend the shoreland zoning rules. The economic impact analysis did not analyze the impacts of any proposed changes that DNR will be pursuing to the rule revision effective February 1, 2010. The proposed changes will address concerns expressed by some local government officials with administration and implementation of the rule.

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