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NR 151 rule changes for nitrate

Draft EIA and comments received

Public comments were received for the draft economic impact analysis (EIA).

The public comment period was in effect March 8, 2021 - April 10, 2021 for the following documents.

As part of the effort to address groundwater issues and protect drinking water and public health across Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources worked with key public and agriculture industry stakeholders, state agencies, the State Legislature, the governor and the general public to update ch. NR 151, Wis. Adm. Code [exit DNR].

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Consistent with state statutes, NR 151 directs the DNR to promulgate rule performance standards to meet water quality standards and address specific issues either geographically or by activity. The NR 151 rule modification is to develop a targeted performance standard to abate nitrate pollution in areas of the state with highly permeable soils which are susceptible to groundwater contamination (sensitive areas) for the purpose of achieving compliance with the nitrate groundwater standards. The rule revisions will define sensitive areas in the state and the performance standards needed to protect groundwater quality in these areas.

Summary of Draft NR 151

The DNR shared this presentation with UW to describe the proposed rule to participants of focus group discussions. The UW is conducting a third party economic analysis of the proposed rule and the focus groups provide important information to help complete the study.

Nitrogen Viewer - Interactive Map

This map represents the draft targeted areas being proposed for agricultural performance standards and prohibitions meant to address high levels of nitrate in groundwater. It is intended for the public to understand how the proposed rule may affect specific cropland.

Rule change process, public input and timeline

The Wisconsin DNR creates and revises administrative rules to implement statutes enacted by the Wisconsin State Legislature [exit DNR]. Administrative rules have the full force and effect of law.

Public participation is a critical component of agency rulemaking. There are numerous opportunities to participate in the DNR rulemaking process. There are many internal steps [PDF] that DNR and the Natural Resources Board (NRB) must go through during the rule promulgation process. For permanent rules, the entire process generally takes about 31 months from initiation to promulgation.

Winter 2019
  • Statement of Scope approved by DNR secretary, governor, NRB
Spring 2020 — Fall 2020
  • Tech. Advisory Committee (TAC) meetings - open to public
  • Preparation of proposed rule
  • Solicitation of information for economic impact analysis
Winter 2020
  • TAC meetings complete
  • NRB notification (hearing authorization already approved)
Spring 2021
  • EIA public comment period
(We are here)
Summer 2021
  • Public hearings on proposed rule
  • Public comment period
Summer 2021 — Fall 2021
  • NRB meeting for adoption
  • Rule approved by governor
Winter 2021
  • Legislative review/hearings
Spring 2022 — Summer 2022
  • Rule signed by DNR Secretary, rule published
Statement of scope for proposed rule WT-19-19
Preliminary public hearing

The Department of Natural Resources held preliminary public hearings on the statement of scope for proposed rule WT-19-19 related to targeted performance standards and prohibitions to abate pollution of groundwater by nitrate in sensitive areas on November 4, 6 and 7, 2019. Public comments were received through oral and written testimony provided at the public hearings and or submitted via email at

Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)

Given the size and scope of the effort required for rule changes of this type, and the need for technical input, DNR has formed a Technical Advisory Committee to provide guidance on the rule changes. The committee will be reviewing proposed changes to NR 151 to address targeted performance standards for sensitive areas of the state.

Six TAC meetings are currently scheduled at the locations listed below. The meetings will be public noticed, and prior to each meeting the department will provide an agenda and any materials for review. The TAC meetings are open to the public, and once the TAC meetings are completed, there will be additional opportunities for public input and comments throughout the remainder of the rule-making process.

Meeting date and time Location Resources
Thursday, February 27, 2020
9 a.m. — 3 p.m.
State Natural Resources Building (GEF II)
Room G09
Friday, March 20, 2020 Dreyfus University Center,
UW-Stevens Point
Meeting postponed
Wednesday, April 23, 2020 Zoom Online Meeting (pre-registration is required) Presentations
Thursday, May 28, 2020 Zoom Online Meeting (pre-registration is required) Presentations
Thursday, June 25, 2020 Zoom Online Meeting (pre-registration required) Presentations
Wednesday, July 22, 2020 Zoom Online Meeting (pre-registration required) Presentations
Wednesday, August 19, 2020 Zoom Online Meeting (pre-registration required)


Wednesday, September 16, 2020 Zoom Online Meeting (pre-registration required)


Wednesday, October 14, 2020 Zoom Online Meeting (pre-registration required)


Thursday, March 25, 2021
10:30 a.m. — 12:00 p.m.
Zoom Online Meeting (pre-registration required)