Assembly debates wetland permit exemptions bill

Cropped Photo: Courtesy: Land Restoration & Trust / CC BY-SA 4.0
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Assembly is debating a Republican bill that would allow developers to fill state wetlands without a permit.

Debate began about 6 p.m. Thursday. It was unclear when members would vote but the GOP controls the chamber, making passage a certainty. Approval will send the bill to the Senate.

Under the bill, builders could fill wetlands within a half-mile of a municipality or an area with a sewer system without a Department of Natural Resources permit. Developers wouldn't have to mitigate urban wetland losses of less than 10,000 square feet.

Builders also could fill up to three acres of rural wetlands without a permit if the development is related to an agricultural structure. Mitigation within a 20-mile radius would be required if the project results in the loss of more than 1.5 acres.

Assembly Democrats argued Thursday the bill would result in the loss of wildlife habitat and exacerbate flooding. Republicans countered the current permit process is too slow, hampering business expansion.