Senate Bill Introduced to Natural Resources Committee Threatens Wetlands, Lakes, and Streams
On Wednesday, November 28, the Senate Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on SB 1211 introduced by Senator Tom Casperson. Michigan Environmental Council, as well as many other environmental organizations, are strongly opposed to this bill. SB 1211 will completely overhaul how Michigan’s wetlands, inland lakes and streams are regulated by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Currently, Michigan is one of two states with delegated authority from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to administer the Clean Water Act. Michigan’s program is already noncompliant with federal standards, and SB 1211 will push us further out of compliance. The result is increased degradation of our water quality and the elimination of lakes and wetlands vital for ecological health and outdoor recreation. Michigan Environmental Council released the following statement in response:
“If this bill were to go into effect, close to 70,000 wetlands and over 4,000 inland lakes will be deregulated in Michigan,” says Tom Zimnicki, Michigan Environmental Council’s Agriculture Policy Director. “Fundamentally, this bill diminishes the ability for the state to protect the endangered and threatened species that live in these areas, strips regulatory protections away from wetlands and smaller water bodies that are essential for outdoor recreation, and weakens the ability to manage stormwater events and deal with local flooding.”
The importance of wetlands and inland lakes in Michigan cannot be understated. Wetlands provide shoreline protection, temporary flood storage, the removal of excess nutrients and sediments from ground and surface water, and play a significant role in maintaining a high level of biological diversity. They also bolster our state’s outdoor recreational industry with activities like hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, canoeing, birdwatching and more. SB 1211 ignores these benefits and instead is yet another attempt by the legislature to prioritize special interests over the well-being of Michiganders.
“Without regulatory protections, these wetlands, lakes and streams can be filled, dredged, and constructed on without a permit.” says Zimnicki. “Think you have lakefront property? If this bill becomes law, your house could be facing a parking lot instead of a beautiful lake.”