Walker Signs Bill Loosening Fish Farm Regulations

June 26, 2017

Fish

Republican Gov. Scott Walker has signed a GOP bill into law that loosens state regulations on fish farms.

Walker signed Assembly Bill 160, which ends state permits in order for fish farms to discharge material into a man-made wetlands created for fish farming and to build or enlarge man-made bodies of water, like ponds, that are connected to navigable waterways.

The new law also allows the state to contract to provide fish or fish eggs to privately owned ponds, clubs, corporations or preserves; creates a sales tax exemption for farm-raised fish that are sold to fish farms registered with the state; and reduces requirements on the amount of water that dams operated by fish farms may control or discharge.

The state is also prohibited from creating new fish farm permit conditions unless they are needed to meet water quality standards.

The new law drew support from business, agriculture, fish farms and grocers.

The measure’s chief backer was Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business group.

WMC has spent more than $18.6 million since 2010 on secret, outside electioneering activities to support Republican and conservative legislative and statewide candidates. More than half of that spending, about $9.5 million, was used to help Walker win his 2010 general, 2012 recall, and 2014 reelection campaigns.

Top contributions from fish farm owners to legislative and statewide candidates between January 2010 and December 2016 were James and Jessie Augustyn, of Antigo, owners of James Augustyn Springs, $4,000, and David and Susan Gollon, of Dodgeville, owners of Gollon Bait and Fish Farm, $2,600.

The bill was opposed by Midwest Environmental Advocates and the River Alliance of Wisconsin.