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Severson, Harsdorf bills to end drinking water disinfection, fund Stillwater bridge, clear houses

MADISON -- Republicans in the state Assembly have voted to get rid of a new requirement that all Wisconsin communities disinfect their drinking water.

The Department of Natural Resources recently advanced a rule that would require all municipal drinking water systems to provide continuous disinfection of their water no later than December of 2013. This plan would get rid of that requirement.

Sponsor Erik Severson of Star Prairie said communities could choose for themselves whether they need to disinfect their water.

"No one in our communities are saying 'Please, we need to chlorinate our water, our water is so bad', said Severson. "They're telling us our water is great. Please, please, please don't make us pay millions of dollars to add chlorine to our water."

But Milwaukee Democratic Rep. Sandy Pasch said clean drinking water was a basic, essential need that people expect.

"I like to choose whether I have Coke or Pepsi or what I want for dinner. But choosing whether I want my water to be clean and safe -- or dirty -- is just something I never thought about when it came to personal choice."

The DNR says currently, 66 communities do not disinfect their drinking water. The plan now heads to the Senate.

Also Tuesday, SB-26, a bill that would remove the requirement that Wisconsin receive a federal grant of at least $75 million before it can

access the existing $225 million in general obligation bonding authority was passed by the Senate. The $225 million would represent the state's share of a new St. Croix River crossing.

The non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau notes that the change would assume the objection raised by the National Park Service to the existing proposed project can be overcome, and a project has been approved for construction. The proposal also assumes a three-year construction period; $75 million in bonds issued each year for three fiscal years; and, 4.5 percent interest with a 20-year repayment period.

The bill was introduced March 1st by Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) and was co-sponsored by Reps. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson), John Murtha (R-Baldwin) and Erik Severson (R-Star Prairie).

The bill, passage of which represent removal of yet another hurdle to the troubled St. Croix River crossing at Stillwater, now moves to the Assembly's Transportation Committee for consideration.

-- Shawn Johnson, WPR & Rivertowns staff