[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

E-M:/ Ingham County Wetland Protection and the DEQ: Asleep at the Wheel

Enviro-Mich message from joonmck <joonmck@gateway.net>

Dear Emers,

If the Drain Commissioners have not done a good job historically in
protecting Ingham County Wetlands (with a few notable exceptions, like
the Tollgate Wetlands, a topic of a future post), then how about the

Are they in charge, or do they provide the red carpets for the
developing class. As many of you know, in October 1980 the State of
Michigan enacted a landmark wetland statute that changed the rules for
developers. Certain wetlands were regulated, including all those that
were contiguous with (connected to in some manner) a permanent inland
lake system. For counties with a population greater than 100,000 (like
Ingham County) all non-contiguous (or isolated) wetlands greater than 5
acres in size were also regulated. Everything smaller than 5 acres was
unregulated, meaning that anyone could do whatever they wanted with
Regulation did not mean protection, however. Developers -- of a housing
project, industrial park, a Walmart etc. -- and homeowners could apply
for a permit to develop property. If they were granted permission to
destroy a wetland they were required to replace it by building another
wetland in another place. They had to build a bigger wetland, at a ratio
of 1  new wetland acres to 1 old wetland acre.
How has the program gone? Not very well. Unfortunately, the wetland
mitigation rule has been poorly enforced. First of all, for most of the
program's history, the DEQ never kept records of the permitted sites.
Moreover, DEQ representatives rarely, if ever follow-up with a developer
to check whether or not that had actually created a new wetland as they
were required to do by law.
In the past three years, the DEQ has placed more effort into getting its
house in order, and record keeping has improved. As of June 1999, the
DEQ only had records of 23 permitted acres lost to 35.5 mitigated acres
(replaced) for Ingham County. But the DEQ does not know whether those
35.5 acres (listed on paper) were indeed replaced, in reality. According
to Rob Zbciak, a surface water quality specialist for the DEQ, wetland
mitigation did not begin in earnest until the mid-1980s, and even then,
many  people didn't know about it. Even today the wetland overseers have
"a limited staff stretched too thin."
Zbciak said that the number of 23 wetland acres lost to development was
"probably low." He said that a better indicator of sprawl was wetland
lost illegally; however he admitted that this number is hard to

Moreover, the EPA reports that there has been "a high level of wetland
loss in the Upper Grand River Watershed during 1982 and 1992." The loss
of wetlands -- which are natural storm water buffers -- has come at the
same time that the Grand was continuing to discharge tons of raw sewage
into the Grand River after a storm event. In 1997 there were 713 million
gallons of raw sewage that swept into the Grand River due to combined
sewer overflows.
As Nietzsche said, "Insanity in individuals is rare, in nations, epochs
and eras it is the rule."

In Solidarity,

Brian McKenna, Ph.D.
Environmentalist &

"If there are connections everywhere, why do we persist in turning
dynamic, interconnected phenomena into static, disconnected things?" 
         -- Eric R. Wolf, Anthropologist (1923-1999)

ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at

Postings to:  enviro-mich@great-lakes.net      For info, send email to
majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info enviro-mich"