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Natural resources planning includes administration of various regulatory and non-regulatory environmental programs, provides review and comment on pending federal, state, and local legislation relating to environmental issues and concerns, and provides education, information, and assistance to public officials, private citizens, surveyors, realtors, and developers. Specific duties performed by the Natural Resources Planner include land division review, erosion control planning, stormwater management planning, environmentally sensitive area planning, public and private sanitary sewer extension reviews, sanitary sewer service area planning, open space and outdoor recreation planning, and environmental assessments.

Brown County Planning has been involved in water quality and sewer service area planning for nearly 50 years.  When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, Brown County was in the midst of finalizing and approving the first comprehensive study of wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal.  By 1974, Wisconsin Governor Patrick J. Lucy directed that areawide water quality management planning be undertaken for certain areas of the state under Wisconsin Administrative Code, Chapter NR 121.  Brown County contained four of the 18 initial river basis identified as an area that was required to undertake such planning.  By 1977, areawide water quality management plans were under development for the 4 river basins in Brown County. 

In 1978, Brown County Planning Commission (BCPC) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Fox Valley Water Quality Planning Agency, and the DNR regarding each agency's role in sewer service area planning.  BCPC was appointed as the management agency responsible for sewer service area planning and sewer extension reviews within that portion of Brown County tributary to the Fox River.

In 1982 the DNR appointed the BCPC as the management agency responsible for sewer serivce area planning and sewer extension reviews for the remaining portions of Brown County.  1982 also marked the first update to the Brown County Sewage Plan and contained within this plan were the first identification of environmental corridors (lands within which sewered development was generally prohibited).

The next significant milestone came in 1995 when the sewage plan was updated.  This update revised the definition of environmental corridors (through the addition of setbacks and buffers to floodways and wetlands) and subsequently termed these areas environmentally sensitive areas. 

2002 saw the next major change with Brown County Planning entering into an MOU with the DNR, East Central Regional Planning Commission, and the Bay Lake Regional Planning Commission designating Brown County as the sewer service area planning agency for those areas located outside of, but immediately adjacent to, Brown County, tributary to wastewater treatment plants located in Brown County.

Four years later, Brown County applied for a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit to address storm water.

2011 brought another update to the sewage plan that sought to update ESA setbacks to minimize confusion for the public when trying to understand various regulations that were enforced by the same governing body.
Current Status of Water of the State (In Brown County)

As of Spring 2020, Brown County has 22 separate water bodies that are listed on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Impaired Waters database.  Many of these waterways are listed multiple times for various pollution or impairment issues.  Of the 22 waterways listed, 11 are listed as a 303d impaired waterway meaning that, under the Federal Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is authorized to assist the state in developing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for the affected waterbody.  The TMDL establishes the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed in a waterbody and serves as the starting point or planning tool for restoring water quality. 

Brown County is also host to one of 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs).  The designation was given to the area of the Fox River below the De Pere Dam to Long Tail Point on the west side of the Bay of Green Bay to Point Au Sable on the East side of the Bay of Green Bay in the 1980's.  The Lower Green Bay and Fox River AOC identified eleven beneficial use impairments which stem from contaminated sediments, poor water quality, and lost or altered habitat.  While progress has been made to improve the conditions of the AOC, only one of the eleven beneficial use impairments has been removed.

Lower Fox River Basin and Lower Green Bay TMDL

Areawide Water Quality Management Agency

The Brown County Planning Commission was designated as the areawide water quality management agency under Wisconsin Administrative Code Chapter NR 121 in 1979.  In coordination with the DNR, Brown County developed and revised the areawide water qualtiy management plan which was required to include the identification of "sewer service areas" within the poor surface water quality areas and the identification of "major areas unsuitable for the installation of waste treatment systems because of physical or environmental constraints."  NR 121 also states that “areas to be considered for exclusion from the sewer service area because of the potential for adverse impacts on the quality of the waters of the state from both point and nonpoint sources of pollution include, but are not limited to, wetlands, shorelands, floodways and floodplains, steep slopes, highly erodible soils, and other limiting soil types, groundwater recharge areas, and other such physical constraints.” This is the basis for environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs) in Brown County.

ESAs in Brown County are regulated through the Brown County Urban Service Area Water Quality Plan and Chapter 21 (Land Division and Subdivision Ordinance) of the Brown County Code of Ordinances in order to improve the surface water quality of Brown County and ultimately meet the requirements of the Federal Clean Water Act.  More information about ESA's can be found by clicking on the link toward the bottom of this page.
Brown County Sewage Plan (Sewer Service Area (SSA) and Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA))

As an approved NR 121 areawide water quality management plan, the Brown County Sewage Plan sets fort two main objectives; to identify sewer service areas (those areas tributary to a publicly-owned sewerage treatment plant to which sanitary sewer service could be provided within the next 20 years) and to identify environmentally sensitive areas (those lands located within a sewer service area within which public sanitary sewer service and associated development should not be allowed).

NR 121 and the 2040 Brown County Urban Service Area Water Quality Plan gives the Brown County Planning Commission the authority to review the following:
2040 Brown County Urban Service Area Water Quality Plan

Environmentally Sensitive AreasSewer Service Area PlanningWater Quality Management Letters
Resource Documents
Shoreland Zoning and Environmentally Sensitive Area Pamphlet (December 2012)
Brown County Shoreland Zone Environmentally Sensitive Area Best Practices Report (December 2012)

Related Links

Shoreland Zoning and ESA Maps for each community in Brown County (Click Here)

Lily Lake Study