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August 13, 2020

7/7/2020 9:43:00 AM
Marion gives her thoughts

Dear Editor:
In the June 18 Chronicle, I was accused by Micah Bahr of "ignoring the law of the county level" because I did not fight to prosecute farms that he thought were in violation of the Lafayette County Livestock Licensing Ordinance. I am not a member of the Land Conservation Committee for the 2020-2022 term, so the accusations don't really apply to me, but I am happy to respond to them because they address important issues.
First, I want to make clear that I was a strong proponent of passing the county Licensing Ordinance because I have a well-known concern for private well water. I believe that every resident, farm, and business in our county should have access to clean, safe, and healthy water. In very simple terms, the purpose of the ordinance is to encourage livestock operations that want to build or expand beyond 749 animal units to have a dialog with the county conservation department about designing facilities in such a way that water is protected and neighbors are not negatively impacted. The point of requiring a permit is not to punish, prosecute, or hassle - it is merely to make sure that our farmers have access to clear, up-to-date, data-based information about best practices, geology and engineering BEFORE they build. The Land Conservation Department is a free resource for businesses of every size, however, and anyone can ask for technical help.
Second, we know now that we DO have a problem with contaminated private well water. Though reporting on the results may have been confusing at certain points, the SWIGG (Southwest Wisconsin Geology and Groundwater) Study will be wrapping up at the end of 2020, at which point we as Lafayette, Iowa and Grant County residents will have an opportunity to work together to solve problems the report might indicate. I am proud of the work I did with many others to get this study passed, and I stand by the importance of having good information to plan for a prosperous future. SWIGG was never intended to be a hammer to punish anyone, but a tool to educate everyone. Our counties may eventually end up passing some additional groundwater protection ordinances, but SWIGG only gives us information, and a lot of it. Our first actions as counties should involve education, and as a member of the Lafayette County Board of Health, I will be advocating for broad community education on groundwater once the SWIGG results are completed.
Third, if you are a farmer who has complied with the relatively new Licensing Ordinance, and gone through the permitting process with the county before building, thank you. In the midst of changing rules and new information, our community is creating a modern culture of conservation and those who apply for permits are the leaders. We are on a path to become state-wide conservation trailblazers in the agricultural community, as we meet the challenges of emerging data on our geology and on increasingly chaotic weather. From Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance, to Pecatonica Pride Watershed Association and Uplands Watershed Group, to individual farms - we are seeing tremendous and important changes on our landscape. I am incredibly proud of how our counties are stepping up to do better by our neighbors and our children, and I encourage everyone to look around this summer and see the good we are growing.
This letter represents my own thoughts and opinions and is not an official communication of Lafayette County.

Kriss Marion
Lafayette County Supervisor
Blanchardville, WI

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