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E-M:/ Army Corps Stops Work on Elk Rapids Dredging after a Wetland is Obliterated

Enviro-Mich message from "Scott McEwen" <scott@watershedcouncil.org>

Army Corps Stops Work on Elk Rapids Dredging after Wetland is Obliterated

A sad situation has unfolded in the coastal Village of Elk Rapids over the
last month.  Due to the low lake levels of Lake Michigan, the Village of Elk
is currently engaged in dredging their community marina.  As with any
operation of this magnitude, finding an appropriate location to dispose of
dredge spoils is a
critical element of permitting.  On February 15 of this year, the MDEQ
allowed the Village to modify
their dredging permit to place 7,000 cubic yards into a wetland.  (A typical
dump truck holds ten
cubic yards, so the permit modification allowed 700 dump truck loads to fill
to be placed in this
wetland.) The results are that a wetland, over ten acres in size, has been
virtually obliterated under
feet of clay. The clay is being used to create buildable sites for a 24-unit
development in the wetland
known as the Elk Rapids Preserve.  The clay is being hauled at no charge to
the Village to this
development site.

In June of 1997, MDEQ staff made a determination that this particular
wetland was "non-contiguous" or
"isolated" from lakes or streams or to Lake Michigan via groundwater.  (The
wetland is under
1,000 feet from Lake Michigan.)  Such a jurisdictional determination means
that the
wetland can be filled, dredged, or drained without any permit authorization
from MDEQ.
Yet in March 2001, the Army Corps of Engineers biologists made a
that the wetland was within the Corps jurisdiction and any efforts to fill
or dredge
in the wetland would require a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Village of Elk Rapids and the developer received a permit modification
from the
MDEQ to place 700 dump truck of clay into the wetland, but never from the
Army Corps.
The placement of fill in the wetland is thus not only a violation of their
dredging permit, but a violation of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.  We
applaud the
Army Corps of Engineers for halting the placement of dredge spoils in this
sensitive wetland
and we expect the Corps to uphold their statutory obligation to require full
restoration of the
wetland site.  A permit modification of the existing dredging permit or an
"after-the-fact" permit
and fine for the placement of fill in this wetland is completely

For more information contact Scott McEwen at Tip of the Mitt Watershed
Council (231) 347-1181
Ext. 114.

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