Quincy Aston-Lott, Managing Editor
Madison, Wis. – Last week, the Wisconsin Water Alliance (WWA) presented its first ever Outstanding Water Legislator of the Year Award to five state lawmakers, including Representative Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville). However, Novak’s Democratic opponent questioned the motive behind the award and the organization granting it.
The WWA states it is a non-partisan, statewide organization whose mission is, “to protect the state’s water resources and advocate for sound water policies that benefit families, cities, businesses, farmers, and others.” The award was presented to legislators, “who are leading efforts to address the pressing water issues facing the state. The award recognizes a commitment to advancing sound water policy that protects the environment while allowing the resource to power our state’s economic engine,” according to their release.
Mike Huebsch, WWA president, praised Novak when announcing the awards, “Wisconsin Water Alliance is pleased to present the Outstanding Water Legislator of the Year Award to Representative Todd Novak for his demonstrated commitment to protecting our state’s water resources. From recreation to industry, water is central to Wisconsin’s success and requires reasonable action that addresses the diverse water-related issues facing our state.”
He continued, “Wisconsin Water Alliance will continue to be both environmentally practical and business-minded as it works to advance reasonable water policy that moves our state forward.”
Huebsch is a former Republican Assembly speaker, Department of Administration secretary and Public Service commissioner. All five legislators who received the award belong to the Republican party—Novak, Speaker Robin Vos, Rep. Travis Tranel, Sen. Rob Cowles and Sen. Pat Testin. All award recipients are currently running for re-election, prompting some questions about the timing of the award.
Novak is currently locked in a re-election race against Kriss Marion, a Lafayette county supervisor, farmer and small business owner from Blanchardville who is running as a Democrat.
Marion was unambiguous in her response to Novak receiving the reward, “WWA is a group formed to protect polluters. Two of the board members are currently in lawsuits or under investigation for harming their neighbors by polluting private wells around their operations. One recently paid $80,000 in fines to pay for a government clean-up of a manure spill they allowed to go on for months in 2017, and they’ve had four spills since.”
She continued, “In every industry, there are terrific innovators and leaders, and there are also bad apples. Now and again, even the best producers might have an accident. But I think we can all agree that bad apples – those whose operations repeatedly pollute neighbors’ water resources or continually draw down the prized lakes and streams in a community – need to be held [to] account. WWA exists to protect polluters from being held responsible, and Todd Novak as the head of the Task Force on Clean Drinking Water did exactly that.”
Novak released the following statement in conjunction with receiving the award, “I am committed to ensuring a clean and healthy freshwater supply in our state. As Chair of the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality, I’ve talked with residents and leaders in every corner of Wisconsin about the water-related issues they’re facing. Working together, we will continue to advance legislation that protects water and those who rely on it.”
Neither Novak’s office or campaign provided specific responses to questions regarding his stance on several policies supported by the WWA.
Read the full statement provided by Novak’s campaign here.
Read the full statement provided by Marion’s campaign here.
Editor’s note: The online version of this article has been updated to provide more context, including the full statements provided by both Novak and Marion’s campaigns.