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Enviro-Mich message from Rob Perks <rperks@peer.org>
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	DEQ SET TO APPROVE ILLEGAL WETLAND FILL -- "AFTER THE FACT"

			PUBLIC HEARING SHEDULED FOR TONIGHT

Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has scheduled a
public hearing  to solicit citizen input on whether to issue an
"After-the-Fact" permit for a construction project that has already
resulted in damage to several acres of wetlands.  According to
information provided to Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER), DEQ may have violated its own procedures, as well
as wetlands regulations in allowing the project to proceed.

PURPOSE:

DEQ's Land & Water Management Division will hold this public hearing in
the Arbela Township Hall, 8935 Birch Run Road, Millington, Michigan, at
7:00 pm, Wednesday, April 21, 1999.  

The stated purpose of the meeting is to "secure the views of interested
persons" concerning DEQ's proposed authorization for "the previous
placement of approximately 5,810 cubic yards of material placed over a
three acre wetland area for the construction of a tractor museum and
facilities."  PEER is urging concerned citizens to attend and voice
their opinions on Permit 98-08-0994.  Citizens may also submit written
comments directly to DEQ, P.O. Box 30204, Lansing, MI 48909, or fax them
(517-686-0727) by May 12, 1999.

BACKGROUND:

In July, 1997, DEQ's Saginaw Bay District Office received a complaint
about the unauthorized filling of wetlands by a property owner in
Tuscola County, which involved constructing buildings for a planned
Tractor Museum.  As part of the project, more than three (3) acres of
wetlands adjacent to the landowner's property were converted for use as
a parking lot.

Staff investigated and confirmed a violation of Michigan's Wetland
Protection statute (Part 303). The agency then issued a "cease and
desist" letter to stop the owner's filling activity and ordered that the
wetlands be "restored."   The landowner halted his activity but failed
to restore the wetlands.  Instead, he hired a consultant and entered
into negotiations with the department's Saginaw Bay District Office.  

Rather than take appropriate enforcement action against the violater,
the DEQ agreed to accept an application for an "After-the-Fact" permit
for the filled wetlands in return for the mitigation or construction of
artificial wetlands elsewhere on site.  

Problems:

1)  No enforcement action was taken against the landowner for illegally
filling wetlands along the lake, nor did the DEQ respond when the
landowner ignored the order to restore the lost wetlands.

2)  The destroyed wetlands were located on the shoreline of an inland
lake, a resource which is rare in Tuscola county, and which provides
valuable wildlife habitat/water quality functions.  The mitigated
wetlands created inland from the lake as a replacement represent an
insufficient ecological swap.
 
3)  DEQ's decision to approve the project was based on the rationale
that there exists "no feasible and prudent alternatives" for location of
the parking lot elsewhere on site, despite the fact that the owner has
more than 200 available "upland" acres.  It is also doubtful that, had
the landowner applied for a permit as required, the planned Tractor
Museum project would not have met DEQ's criteria for approval.  

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====
For more information, contact:

Rob Perks
National Field Director
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
2001 S Street, NW, Suite 570
Washington, DC  20009
(202) 265-PEER  
rperks@peer.org


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