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E-M:/ Chamber of Commerce supports drain code environmentalism

Enviro-Mich message from Sue Julian <benj@tir.com>

The Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter of support for HB 4803 (Drain
Code)to all Senators. Read below for a clue as to their present support.

"We commend Representative Green and Senator McManus for their hard work

on this legislation to allow for proper drainage, productive
operations and land development. The Michigan Chamber had strong
reservations with the House-passed version of the bill, specifically as
it related to an unworkable patchwork of water quality standards and
over-reaching assessment power.  However, we can not report to you that
through recent negotiations those concerns have been successfullly
resolved with the Senate substitute."

The letter continues with the all too frequent tactic of stating the
opposite of what is true in the bill:

"Finally, on balance, HB 4803 (S-2) will allow for more public input on
drainage projects while maintianing a high level of the environmental
protection in a more consistent manner...." [Oh really?]

Presumably, the Chamber of Commerce thinks that Senators will take their

word for it, since the Senators are unlikely to read the 260 page bill

Unfortunately it is STILL true that:

1)  Sec. 10  says drains may be laid into wetlands and lakes.  No
qualifiers were added to protect lakes, streams or wetlands.

2) Sec. 3 (F) says all applicable permits must be acquired, but leaves
intact the LOOPHOLE for work involving drains established prior to 1973
(and presumably laterals, "improvements" and additions to all those

3)  Sec. 3 (B) which directs drain commissioners to "avoid, minimize
and mitigate impacts on land..." is superseded by Sec. 55, "The scope of

the project is within the sole authority of the drain commissioner...."
Thus the language leaves the STATUS QUO in effect, and destructive
wetland elimination will continue unless the drain commissioner
personally wants it otherwise.

4)  The bill still PREVENTS ANY APPEAL of the scope or cost or impact
of a drain project by limiting appeal to the procedural aspects of drain

work (ie. were notices sent on time? did the Board of Determination
meeting proceed correctly?).  (See Sec. 161) The extra public input that

the Chamber of Commerce notes are hearings <italic>after</italic> the
decision to do a project has been made.

5)  Sec. 423 permits sewage in drains and rivers designated as drains.
But in all the code there is NO ACCOUNTABILITY in the office of drain
commissioner for checking to see if reasonable water quality is
maintained.  That is left to DEQ which has a hands-off policy with
respect to drains.  Everyone passes the buck and the lakes fill up with
the words "water quality" have re-entered the duties of drain
commissioner, which represents a step forward. HOWEVER, the same Sec. 3
says that in drain projects to improve water quality, those (businesses)

holding NPDES permits will not be assessed.  Presumably everyone else

6)  HB 4803  opens the path to accelerated development by reducing the
number of people who can petition to start drain work. This provides
infrastructure for sprawl paid for by the very citizens who are
fighting to maintain their quality of life!

This bill is not in the best interests of Michigan.
It is not true that this bill is better that current law.
When this bill dies, better legislation will be written.

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