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Representative Wachs proposes mining law change to protect lakes

MADISON, Wis. (WXPR) -- State Democrats are introducing legislation that would close what the author says is a loophole in the new mining law that would allow mining on navigable bodies of water, like lakes.

Representative Dana Wachs of Eau Claire said in reading the new law, he became concerned that it would allow lakes, flowages, and reservoirs to be drained, or filled in by mining activities. His bill, called "Save Our Lakes" would explicitly prohibit this activity. "There are ambiguous terms that have been worked into this bill, and these terms, we believe, create a loophole, which would potentially, allow mining companies to mine lake beds."

The non­partisan Wisconsin Legislative Council told Wachs the new mining bill language includes language that would make it more likely the DNR would approve mining activities near navigable waters. Wachs says..as an example.. there is a large iron ore deposit with much­ sought ­after vanadium under Round Lake and the nearby Tiger Cat Flowage in Sawyer county. "There are very valuable minerals underneath our lakes. We do not want lakes to be strip mined, We don't want surface mining or strip mining on these lakes. It's probably a different matter if there's permitting for vertical shaft mines because shaft mines would be less disturbing to the environment."

Wachs asked Republican legislators to also join him in closing what he sees as loopholes. He fears mining companies will go from lake to lake, leaving problems for property owners and the tourist industry.