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Official believes state DNR restructuring will add to workload
MONROE - A reorganization of the Wisconsin Natural Resources proposed on Wednesday will change how permits governing water pollution are issued in the state, but will not lessen environmental standards, said department representatives.

The restructuring, called an "alignment," will, among other things, confer more power to private contractors to issue permits for lakefront construction and water discharges from concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

While the impact of the restructuring has yet to be felt, Todd Jenson, head of the Green County Department of Land and Water Conservation, was pessimistic.

"It's going to put more work on us," Jenson said. "The way it was done before, the DNR had a template to determine what regulations needed to be followed and we could go through the template and make sure every practice was in order.

"Now, private consultants won't be using templates at all, so we'll have to work with them on a case-by-case basis," Jenson said.

Jenson said he feared that the restructuring would allow private organizations too much leeway in adhering to environmental policies, saying he predicted CAFO owners would now only choose to do so when it is financially expedient.

However, the DNR will still have final authority over whether a permit is issued, according to a statement from the DNR.

"People are saying that we'll allow CAFOs to write their own permits, and that's just not true," said Jennifer Sereno, strategic communications manager for the DNR in Madison.

Sereno said the alignment instead will allow the DNR to lessen the strain on the Department's resources by working with partner organizations.

Furthermore, the use of private contractors to issue permits is not new. The department's process for determining wetland boundaries for developments near wetland areas similarly requires the determination of a wetland professional, who is also subject to DNR review, according to the statement.

The alignment will also bring other changes to the DNR, including transferring responsibility for armed rangers with arrest powers to law enforcement agencies, a redistribution of the department's researchers to various divisions, and some changes in division responsibilities, according to the statement.

"Parts of the alignment will require additional training for some of our staff," Sereno said. "And, with some of the changes to some divisions, we don't want to make our staff switch jobs mid-season."

Sereno said the restructuring will be gradually implemented, with implementation scheduled to be completed in 2018.