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E-M:/ groups ask epa to release review of michigan's wetlands

Enviro-Mich message from Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>

Several Michigan environmental groups today asked the U.S. EPA to release 
for public comment a review of Michigan's faltering wetlands program. EPA's 
review, the first since the state assumed Section 404 Clean Water Act 
authority for wetland permitting in 1984, has reportedly uncovered serious 
deficiencies in the DEQ's so-called wetlands protection program.  (DEQ 
field staff continue to make good faith efforts to protect wetlands but 
front office meddling often prevents them from implementing and enforcing 
the law).  EPA's review began nearly two years ago but has been snarled up 
in private meetings between the agency and DEQ management who seek to water 
down EPA's findings.

Following is text of the letter to EPA:

                                                 November 27, 2000
Francis X. Lyons, Administrator
Region V, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
77 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL  60604

Dear Mr. Lyons,

         We seek your help in correcting the faltering wetlands protection 
program operated by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality 
(MDEQ). Nearly two years ago, Region V initiated a review of the MDEQ's 
Clean Water Act Section 404 wetlands regulatory program.  This is the first 
review of the program since Michigan received delegated permitting 
authority under Section 404 in 1984. As citizen concerns and protests over 
MDEQ policy continue to escalate, it seems to us the review has fallen far 
behind schedule and that the public has a right to a prompt resolution.

         Of particular concern to us is the MDEQ's sluggish preparation of 
an analysis of its ability to track and enforce wetland mitigation 
requirements.  First promised in September 1999, the report is still not 
available from MDEQ. We can only conclude that MDEQ is delaying the release 
of the report in order to prevent you from considering it in your program 

         Although your agency initiated the review, we wish to remind you 
that much of the impetus for it came from citizens. A 1998 report by Public 
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), compiled with assistance 
from MDEQ staff, documented political meddling with wetland regulatory 
decisions. The Michigan Environmental Council discovered a report prepared 
by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory recommending that MDEQ designate 
353 critical non-contiguous wetlands for regulatory protection  a 
recommendation on which MDEQ has not acted.

         Coinciding with our investigations, we understand you have also 
documented numerous inadequacies in the Michigan program, including 
insufficient statutory authority, questionable rulings by state 
administrative law judges, permits issued on dubious grounds, and 
inadequate compliance and enforcement. Why is this still being tolerated?

         Section 404 was designed by Congress to protect wetlands and the 
navigable waters of the United States. We urge you to make public your 
agency's draft findings on the Michigan program so we can help you rebuild 
a program consistent with federal law that will protect Michigan's valuable 
wetlands and public health and welfare.


James Clift
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI  48912

On behalf of the following:

Keith Schneider
Program Director
Michigan Land Use Institute
P.O. Box 228
Benzonia, MI 49616

Jeff Ruch
Executive Director
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
2001 S Street, NW; Suite 570
Washington, D.C., 20009

Bruce Jones
20940 Thorofare
Grosse Ile, MI  48138

Tracey Easthope
Ecology Center
117 N. Detroit St.
Ann Arbor, MI  48104

Tom Leonard, Executive Director
West Michigan Environmental Action Council
1514 Wealthy St., SE , Ste. 280
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Dave Dempsey
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912

517-487-9539 (phone)
517-487-9541 (fax)


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