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E-M:/ Groups Object to Drain Code

Enviro-Mich message from Julie Stoneman <juliemec@voyager.net>

For Immediate Release				
November 18, 1999	          					     

Contact:  Julie Stoneman
Michigan Environmental Council

Local Government, Environmental and Taxpayer Organizations Object to Drain
Code Bill

An unusual variety of organizations are raising fundamental objections to
House Bill 4803 which revises the Michigan Drain Code.  The groups argue
that critical provisions to protect taxpayers and the environment are
missing from the latest drive to amend Michigan's antiquated drain code
law.  HB 4803 was voted out of the House Agriculture Committee in a late
night session last week.  The complex and confusing 250 plus page bill will
be on the House floor when legislators return from a two week break.

Stacy Hanysak of the Michigan Townships Association says her organization
has serious problems with the bill.  The County Road Association of
Michigan is also expressing concern.

Citizen groups charge that the drain code will continue an unjust system
that requires a majority of individuals to pay for drainage work requested
by only a few-without adequate protection of citizens' rights.  Groups like
Taxpayers United, Inc. go so far as to state that the bill completely
ignores the 1978 Headlee tax spending limitation that was amended into our
constitution by statewide, grassroot voter approval.  

"Five people can cause 10,000 people to be taxed for a project that may
serve only a handful of people.  One municipality can cause several others
to pay for drain work.  The system is simply unfair," said Sue Julian of
the Michigan Drain Code Coalition.

"It tramples citizens' due process rights,"  added Terry Gill of the League
of Women Voters of Michigan. "Citizens in drainage special tax assessment
districts are not even given the basic right to know what is being proposed
before the decision to spend their money is made.  Citizens are not told
what the project will be until after the time to appeal the decision has

HB 4803 has requirements to assess lands held by public corporations,
including state-owned lands.  "We're concerned that monies meant for
hunting and fishing programs will now go to pay for drains," said Dennis
Fox of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs referring to new provisions
requiring the state to pay for drainage work even though state lands may
not directly benefit from drain projects.  

According to Julie Stoneman of the Michigan Environmental Council, HB 4803
provides little protection for natural streams which are used to carry
stormwater from development.  "The bill perpetuates loopholes that mean a
large number of rivers and streams are not protected from irreparable
changes that can occur with some drain work," she said.  "The bill also
does not require environmental impact assessments before a decision is made
to proceed on major drain projects."

Drain code bills died in the last two legislative sessions because of
failure to address fundamental reforms.  "This version is no different,"
Stoneman continued,  "The organizations that object to or oppose this bill
want real reform.  HB 4803 does not provide it."

Other organizations that have raised objections to the bill to date include
Clean Water Action, the Michigan Land Use Institute, West Michigan
Environmental Action Council, Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, Tip of the Mitt
Watershed Council, and the Lone Tree Council.


Julie Stoneman
Director of Land Programs
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette Dr., Suite 2A
Lansing, MI  48912
Ph:	517-487-9539
Fax:	517-487-9541
Email:	juliemec@voyager.net

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