The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources surveys the state's waterways to track everything from fish populations to mussels, as well as overall water quality. Here, DNR technicians Justin Haglund, right, and Aaron Nolan collect live brook trout from Ash Creek in April 2013 in a long-term study on the spread of gill lice.

Wisconsin DNR mulls dissolving science bureau

Internal correspondence obtained by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism confirms discussions about the possible dismantling of the bureau and a reorganization that would move researchers into other agency divisions.
Critics, both inside and outside the agency, say such a reorganization would rob the state of impartial science that should guide critical natural resource management decisions.

Agriculture contributes nearly half of the phosphorus pollution that causes Green Bay's annually recurring dead zone, where the water lacks oxygen to support life.

Farmers vow to reduce phosphorus, bane of Green Bay

Despite fish kills, toxic algae blooms, unsafe beaches and an annual dead zone in the Lake Michigan bay sparking concern across the region, the level of phosphorus loading has changed little over the past two decades, and even gone up in the past couple of years. “I’m part of the problem,” said John Pagel of Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy, one of the largest farms in Wisconsin, at a summit hosted by U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble in Green Bay. “But I’m also part of the solution.”

Rebecca Underwood’s son Aaron has lived at Central Wisconsin Center, one of the state’s centers for the developmentally disabled, for more than 30 years. She says the care the center provides its patients and their families “turns their lives around.” Photo Feb. 25, 2015, in Madison.

Wisconsin cuts back on long-term institutional care for the disabled

It’s part of a national trend. But parents and guardians of patients at Central Wisconsin Center, one of the state’s facilities for the developmentally disabled, are worried that the state’s no-new-admissions policy could endanger people who could benefit from the centers’ services. Now a couple have gone to court to keep their child at the center.

Cheryl and Scott Peterson in an elevator service room in Jackson, Wis., on Jan. 29, 2015. Cheryl Peterson’s complaint to the state that her company was being unfairly targeted led to a probe that nullified a restriction on Scott Peterson’s ability to service elevators, and to disciplinary action against the state workers who imposed it.

State workers punished after curbing non-union elevator shop

The employees said they acted to protect public safety in restricting the contractor’s ability to service a particular elevator model. But the state Department of Safety and Professional Services, responding to complaints filed with an office created by Gov. Scott Walker to assist small businesses, accused the employees of violating workplace rules and nullified this restriction.

State auditors say two family planning clinics overbilled Medicaid for $3.5 million, largely for birth control; the providers say the state is using the wrong reimbursement rate. Now Republican legislators are seeking an audit of all such clinics in Wisconsin.

Republicans seek Medicaid audit of all family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood

The 32 legislators’ action was prompted by a Center story in November about state auditors alleging that two family planning clinics overbilled Medicaid by $3.5 million, largely for birth control drugs and devices. Family planning providers say the auditors’ stance could force many clinics to close, while the state maintains it is protecting taxpayers.