Environmentalists Deplore DEQ Assault on Saginaw Bay
Policies of the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are this summer jeopardizing the recovery of Saginaw Bay, the Lone Tree Council and Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) charged today.
Over 30 acres of coastal wetlands have been destroyed this summer because of DEQ’s failure to enforce law regarding public trust lands, and a recent decision by DEQ Director Russell Harding to allow construction of an airport at Caseville puts another 17 acres at risk, the groups said. The groups will ask federal officials in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to step up law enforcement on the public trust lands, and block a permit for the airport.
Photos of the wetland violations are available on-line at the MEC web
“We see a disaster in the making,” said Terry Miller, chair of the Lone Tree Council. “Coastal wetlands, the cattails and marsh grasses that grow at the interface of shoreline and water, the most valuable of wetlands for their wildfowl habitat, fish spawning grounds, and filtration of water, are under assault by property owners throughout the Saginaw Bay.”
“Saginaw Bay suffered for most of the 20th Century from pollution and wetland degradation,” said Dave Dempsey of MEC. “Millions of public and private dollars have been spent to restore critical habitat and clean up pollution. DEQ’s recent decision to abandon the Bay’s coastal wetlands is the equivalent of cutting the kidneys out of the human body. These resources are vital to filter pollutants and provide other important public benefits.”
Miller added that the field office of the Department of Environmental Quality acknowledges some 80 shoreline violations of wetland laws have occurred in Bay County, nearly 20 in Arenac County and Huron County is still being investigated, but the state is failing to take enforcement action.
Pressured by elected officials and shoreline residents, DEQ Director Harding declined to enforce Michigan's wetland protection act last summer, and instead proposed a General Permit that would allow "grooming" of up to 30 feet from the water's edge -- the most sensitive and ecologically important area.
Residents now are ignoring even these liberal rules, disking and plowing the entire distance from seawalls to water's edge. DEQ field staff have been ordered to send the names of violators to Lansing, but to date no enforcement action has been taken by the state.
"For the Caseville permit, the director ignored his own staff, the rulings of an administrative law judge, and the clear opposition of the majority of Caseville residents, to approve an airport development amid a rare dune-swale wetland. We have a director who seems to have no respect for environmental law, or concern for Michigan's natural resources,” said Miller.
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Member Services Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette Ste. 2A
Lansing, MI 48912
(517) 487-9541 (FAX)