Policy Update

Wisconsin Addresses Flooding Through Wetland Protection Programs

April 16, 2024



NCEL Point of Contact

Justin Gulino
Conservation Associate


On April 3, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers enacted SB 222, a bipartisan bill that empowers local communities and tribal governments to protect from future flooding events by proactively implementing wetland protection programs. Flooding events have cost Wisconsin over $365 million in the last 10 years. Additionally, wetlands are crucial habitats for a host of birds and provide key water quality maintenance services

  • Why It Matters: States are largely responsible for ensuring wetland protections.  Last year’s Supreme Court’s Sackett v. EPA ruling significantly weakened the federal Clean Water Act by excluding wetlands from federal protection.

Key Provisions:

  • Provides assessment ($300,000) and implementation ($250,000) grants to local communities and tribal governments to identify and improve flood vulnerabilities and resilience priorities.
  • Covers 75% of project costs, with local government’s in-kind activities contributing towards the remaining match.
  • Specifies that the project area was designated a “presidentially declared disaster for flooding” within the last 10 years of the applicable grant cycle.
  • Includes reporting requirements to advise on program funding continuation.

Other State Action:

In addition to Wisconsin, Colorado, Illinois, and Indiana are seeking to restore protections for their wetlands this legislative session. 

  • Colorado’s legislation seeks to include wetlands under the definition of “state waters” especially in considering dredge and fill permit applications.
  • The Illinois bill seeks to restore protections to wetlands and small streams previously covered under the Clean Water Act. 
  • Indiana successfully passed legislation to create tax benefits for conserving wetland areas as small as 0.5 acres by classifying them as wildlands.

Earthjustice: Map detailing risks to wetland protection after 2023 Supreme Court decision.

Bill Sponsors:

This bill was sponsored by Senator Mark Spreitzer, NCEL State Lead Senator Andre Jacque, and Senator Rob Cowles.