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E-M:/ The saga of the Little Maple River-Clinton County, Michigan



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Enviro-Mich message from "Patricia Pennell" <thornapple@hotmail.com>
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Those of us interested in issues of the drain code species will be 
delighted to see that someone in the federal government is aiming some 
big guns at our deplorable 1956 Michigan drain code.  Let's watch and 
see what happens!  I will keep you posted.

Patricia Pennell
Thornapple River Watershed Group
PO Box 341
Caledonia, Michigan 49316

http://come.to/theThornappleRiver
http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Vines/6046/

*************************************************************
 >
>Howdy - We've attached our letter to the USEPA in Chicago in our effort 
to
>update all of you on our activities regarding the destruction of 
riparian
>habitat along the Little Maple River in Clinton County Michigan, under 
the
>Michigan Drain Code.  As you'll gather from the letter the EPA is 
evaluati=
>ng
>the effectiveness of Michigan's implementation of certain federal 
regualat=
>ions
>that delegated to the state.  If you are interested in more info on the 
Li=
>ttle
>Maple River, please let us know.  If you would like to add someone to 
the
>Little Maple Support group mailing list let me know .  Cheers, Fred 
Ayer.
>
>PS I'll also include the text of our EPA letter in this e-mail in case
>downloading is problematic.
>
>
>**************************************************************************=
>***
>
>
>
>February 8, 1999
>
>Susan F. Elston=09
>USEPA WW-16J
>77 West Jackson
>Chicago, Illinois  60604
>
>Subject:=09=09FEMA # 1226, DSR # 91962 MI
>=09=09=09=09Little Maple River (a.k.a. Shepard and Extension Drain)
>=09=09=09=09Environmental Damage
>
>Dear Ms. Elston:
>
>This letter is written on behalf of my client, George Parmenter of 
Ovid,
>Michigan and concerns serious ground disturbance and damage to natural
>resources caused by the Clinton County Drain Commissioner under the 
auspic=
>es
>of a federal disaster grant (FEMA # 1226, DSR # 91962 MI Shepard and 
Exten=
>sion
>Drain).   This work was apparently done without any environmental 
assessme=
>nts,
>public meetings, or state or federal permits.  
>
>As a follow-up to our discussions on February 4, 1999, this information 
is
>intended to help you in your ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of
>certain authorities that have been delegated by the USEPA to the state 
of
>Michigan.  Specifically, =A7 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1972 
(commonly
>referred to as an "Army Corp Permit") which, as near as we can tell, 
was
>ignored by the County in this case.   Perhaps the most eloquent 
depiction =
>of
>what occurred on my client's property comes from a letter my client 
sent m=
>e to
>explain what had happened to his beloved Little Maple:
>
>I live on the Little Maple River just before it empties into the Big 
Maple
>River. This past fall our county (Clinton) drain commissioner, Tom 
O'Bryan=
>t
>came through with crews and cut all the trees and shrubs along one side 
of=
> the
>stream. He did the same to a substantial length of the Big Maple. What 
was
>once a place of beauty and peaceful solace is now a horror scene. 
Seventy =
>and
>eighty year old trees now lay in piles along the bank. He has made a 
road =
>upon
>the top of the bank and says he will use this to kill anything that 
try's =
>to
>grow back again. He intends to come back this summer and dig out all 
the
>sandbars and straighten the bends. I thought there were supposed to be 
law=
>s
>and regulations that protected us from this kind of senseless waste. 
How c=
>an
>this have happened? What can be done?
>
>The last two sentences still remain unanswered; "How can this have 
happene=
>d?"
>and  "What can be done?"
>
>Here are our thoughts on these two questions.  
>
>How did this happen?  Because of the Byzantine nature and historical 
evolu=
>tion
>of the Michigan Drain Code of 1956, there appears to be a pervasive 
notion
>that anything done under this drain code is exempt from any public 
scrutin=
>y or
>environmental review.  While this may be true for state regulations, we 
ar=
>e
>surprised that anyone would think a state legislative exemption would 
appl=
>y to
>federal statutes or environmental regulations, particularly when the 
lion'=
>s
>share of this particular project funds are coming from a federal 
agency.  =
> Our
>discussions with the USEPA, FEMA and the Army Corp of Engineers 
confirms o=
>ur
>belief that the Michigan state legislature does not determine 
exemptions f=
>rom
>federal environmental requirements.  However, having said that, 
everyone w=
>e
>have spoken with is at a loss to explain why there are apparently no 
Natio=
>nal
>Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance documents.  Further there is 
no
>readily available evidence that the County or its agents obtained an 
Army =
>Corp
>permit, water quality certification under =A7401 of the Clean Water 
Act, o=
>r
>complied with =A7106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.  Based 
on =
>the
>absence of any of these referenced approvals, we conclude that no 
attempt =
>was
>made to obtain approval for this work for one of several reasons: 
>
>=B7=09everyone involved believed that no approvals were required;
>
>=B7=09someone involved reckoned that environmental approvals and public 
no=
>tice
>requirements could be overlooked because the work they were doing was 
more
>important than the protection of the environment and open communication 
wi=
>th
>stakeholders; 
>
>=B7=09someone believed that communicating with stakeholders and 
developing=
> an
>environmental assessment or finding of no significant impact was far 
too t=
>ime
>consuming and chose to ignore their obligations; or,
>
>
>=B7=09there are no requirements (state or federal) for environmental 
prote=
>ction
>and public notification for federally funded activities involved in 
road
>construction and removal of healthy trees.
>
>While we have an opinion as to which of these reasons we believe was 
the
>principal driver in this debacle, we will keep that opinion to 
ourselves a=
>t
>this time.  We remain silent on this issue, since determining the 
motivati=
>on
>for ignoring the natural resources of the Little Maple is less 
important t=
>o us
>than rectifying the disastrous results of this serious dereliction of 
duty=
> and
>governmental responsibilities.
>
>What can be done? This is an easier one for us to answer.  We 
understand t=
>he
>underpinnings of the Michigan Drain Code of 1956 and the need to ensure
>adequate drainage for agricultural concerns. However, we are hopeful 
that =
>our
>recent entreaties to state and federal agencies will help the Clinton 
Coun=
>ty
>Drain Commissioner understand the interests of some of  his other 
constitu=
>ents
>regarding Clinton County's  precious and finite natural and cultural
>resources.  In the future, we hope the Drain Commissioner will work
>constructively with stakeholders (when we use the word "stakeholder" we 
me=
>an
>someone who has an interest in the outcome of an activity) to avoid
>unnecessary destruction of critical riparian habitat.  We believe this 
can=
> be
>accomplished through the use of common sense, honest and open 
communicatio=
>n,
>and adhering to existing environmental laws.   We also believe that 
doing =
>this
>will not preclude the Drain Commission from meeting its  legislative 
manda=
>te
>under the Michigan Drain Code.  
>
>By letter, we have asked the Drain Commissioner to notify stakeholders 
of =
>any
>future construction or ground-disturbing activities and of any public 
meet=
>ings
>or opportunities to comment on any National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA=
>)
>documents prepared by either the County or their funding agency, the 
Feder=
>al
>Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 
>
>Specific to the damages on my client's property and any future work 
there,=
> we
>have requested that the Drain Commissioner: 
>
>=A8 not excavate large pits to bury the trees and brush that were cut 
alon=
>g the
>creek under this FEMA funded contract;
>
>=A8 work with my client and other stakeholders to replant the riparian 
are=
>as of
>the Little Maple with appropriate indigenous plantings;
>
>=A8 notify the public with sufficient detail in advance of any 
constructio=
>n work
>and allow for public review and comment; and,
>
>=A8 comply with all applicable federal laws, particularly when federal 
fun=
>ds or
>permits are required.
>
>The activities of the Clinton County Drain Commission raise serious 
doubts=
> in
>our minds of the Drain Commission's willingness or ability to 
appropriatel=
>y
>administer the USEPA or Army Corp of Engineers environmental 
obligations.
>Therefore, we request a thorough review by the USEPA of the County's 
and/o=
>r
>the state's compliance with these delegated authorities.  We would like 
ve=
>ry
>much to receive copies of the USEPA's assessment report regarding the 
stat=
>e's
>effectiveness in administering these delegated authorities and 
compliance =
>with
>our country's environmental laws.
>
>We would be happy to discuss our experiences or refer you to others who 
ha=
>ve
>also suffered from the environmental indifference of the Drain 
Commission.=
>   I
>hope our interests are clear and understandable, but if you have 
questions
>about our concerns regarding your agency's delegation of  =A7404 
authority=
> to
>the state of Michigan, please contact  me.
>
>Respectfully, 
>
>
>
>
>Fred J. Ayer, 
>Senior Partner
>
>
>
>CC:
>
>George Parmenter
>Margaret Bowman
>Mona Janopaul, Esq., 
>Dale W. Shipley
>Margaret E. Lawless
>Thomas O'Bryant
>
>
>


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