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Kenzie: Streamlined DNR approval process is not a 'pro-mining' bill

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MADISON (WSAU) State Senate Republican Neal Kedzie of Elkhorn spent hours yesterday defending his bill to streamline the process of getting permits for water-related construction projects. Democrats and others hammered away, saying the measure would damage lakes and streams – give people less of a say on permit applications – and pave the way for Gogebic Taconite to build its controversial iron ore mine near Hurley. Kedzie denied all that. He said he wants the regulatory process to be more consistent, and to start operating under what he called “real-world deadlines.”

Critics laughed when Kedzie said he wanted to make the D-N-R “kinder and gentler.” Dozens jammed the hearing room, and some carried signs with messages like “Public Water, not Private Sewers.”

Kedzie’s bill would allow expanded activities by granting general permits for projects that now require specialized permits. It would allow small piers in areas of special concern – like wild rice beds and wetlands near the Great Lakes. Dredging rules would be relaxed, by allowing up to 10 cubic yards of material to be removed from lakes each year without permits. Assembly Democrat Nick Milroy of South Range called that “irresponsible.” And people would only have 20 days to ask for public hearings on permit requests, instead of the present 30. Kedzie said it’s because many people quote, “say no to everything.” And he wants to stop people from abusing the process to hold up projects they’re against.

Permits would automatically be approved if they’re not decided upon within 30 days after a hearing.

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