Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
Movrich v. Lobermeier
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s judgment entered in favor of Plaintiffs regarding their asserted right to install a pier and to access the Sailor Creek Flowage directly from their shoreline property.Defendants, who owned the waterbed of the Flowage where Plaintiffs’ property met the water, appealed, arguing that the presence of navigable water over their property did not affect their right to prohibit Plaintiffs from installing a pier into or over the portion of the waterbed of the Flowage that Plaintiffs owned. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiffs’ private property rights are not sufficient to place a pier into or over the waterbed of the Flowage without Defendants’ permission based on the rights attendant to their shoreline property; (2) the public trust doctrine conveys no private property rights, regardless of the presence of navigable water; and (3) as long as Plaintiffs are using the flowage waters for purposes consistent with the public trust doctrine, their own property rights are sufficient to access and exit the Flowage directly from their shoreline property. View "Movrich v. Lobermeier" on Justia Law
AllEnergy Corp. v. Trempealeau County Environment & Land Use Committee
The circuit court affirmed the Trempealeau County Environment & Land Use Committee’s denial of a conditional use permit application for non-metallic mineral mining submitted by AllEnergy Corporation and allEnergy Silica, Arcadia, LLC (collectively, AllEnergy). The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Committee applied the factors and considerations set forth in the applicable ordinance and thus kept within its jurisdiction in denying AllEnergy’s application for a conditional use permit; (2) there is substantial evidence to support the Committee’s decision to deny AllEnergy a conditional use permit; and (3) this court does not adopt the new legal doctrine urged by AllEnergy that a conditional use permit applicant is entitled to the permit under certain conditions. View "AllEnergy Corp. v. Trempealeau County Environment & Land Use Committee" on Justia Law
State v. Ryan
In this forfeiture action, the State alleged that Defendant Basil Ryan unlawfully placed and maintained a sunken barge on the bed of the Menomonee River in violation of Wis. Stat. Ann. chapter 30. The circuit court concluded that the doctrine of judicial estoppel precluded Ryan from asserting that he did not own the barge, and it granted summary judgment in favor of the State. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erroneously invoked the doctrine of judicial estoppel, as two essential elements of the doctrine were not satisfied; and (2) summary judgment is not permitted in forfeiture actions for violations of chapter 30. Remanded. View "State v. Ryan" on Justia Law
Zwiefelhofer v. Town of Cooks Valley
Plaintiffs, several residents of the Town of Cooks Valley, brought a declaratory judgment action against the Town to declare the Town's nonmetallic mining ordinance invalid because the ordinance did not have county board approval. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. At issue on appeal was whether the mining ordinance was a zoning ordinance. If the ordinance was not a zoning ordinance, county board approval was not required. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court, holding that, even though the ordinance at issue had some similarities to traditional zoning ordinances, it was not to be classified as a zoning ordinance. Rather, it was a non-zoning ordinance adopted under the Town's police power. View "Zwiefelhofer v. Town of Cooks Valley" on Justia Law
Lake Beulah Mgmt. Dist. v. Village of East Troy
In the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a permit to the village of East Troy to construct a municipal well. Lake Beulah Management District (LBMD) sought a declaratory action in circuit court seeking to enforce its ordinance, which purports to regulate and require permits for certain wells that withdraw water from the area around Lake Beulah. The village moved for summary judgment, asserting that the ordinance was invalid as preempted by state law. The circuit court granted the village's motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ordinance was preempted by state law. The ordinance was invalid because it conflicted with, defeated the purpose of, and violated the spirit of the legislature's delegation of authority to the DNR to regulate high capacity wells.
Lake Beulah Management District v. DNR
After the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a permit to the village of East Troy to construct a municipal well, two conservancies challenged the DNR's decision to issue the permit without considering the well's potential impact on nearby Lake Beulah. The circuit court denied the petition for review, concluding that the DNR did not violate its obligations by issuing the permit because there was no evidence that the well would harm Lake Beulah. On appeal, the court of appeals held that (1) the DNR has the duty to consider the environmental impact of a proposed high capacity well if presented with sufficient scientific evidence suggesting potential harm to waters of the state, and (2) the DNR was presented with such evidence in this case. Therefore, the court remanded the case to the circuit court with directions to remand to the DNR. The Supreme Court affirmed the first part of the appellate court decision but reversed the second part, holding that, based on the record, the DNR was not presented with sufficient concrete, scientific evidence of the well's potential harm to waters of the state. Thus, the Court affirmed the DNR's decision to issue the permit.