Hasty Legislation is always a poor move.
Why is there a big rush to bring House Bills 5958, 5959 and 5960 to the floor for a vote? The vote may very likely be in the week of May 5 –10. The language was essentially put together in late April by Department of Environmental Quality representatives and the Herbicide and Pesticide applicators (those gentlemen who apply chemicals to our inland lakes to control the growth of specific aquatic plants). The public and any stakeholders who may be affected by the legislation were not given an opportunity to provide input.
The DEQ is understaffed and can only process upward of fifteen applications per day for permits to apply herbicides/pesticides to a specific lake and in a specific location. A typical backlog is 700 applications. This is not a good reason for the DEQ to propose legislation which essentially removes the permitting process. The legislation proposes to license those applicators who apply the herbicides/pesticides to inland lakes and then simply allow them to report what they propose to do, or have done. This lightens the burden on the DEQ, but allows slipshod operation by those applicators who are unreliable. Considering the critical nature of the use of herbicides/pesticides, this is an endangerment to the water quality of Michigan’s inland lakes.
Even the Department of Agriculture is not pleased with some of the language.
This legislation puts no constraints on the size or intent of applications. There are no safeguards for fisheries, or wildlife habitat.. The legislation does not address the environmental issues. It allows the DEQ to protest only on the basis of economic, health or recreational reasons, but essentially eliminates enforceability. The permitting process should be mandatory with enforcement capabilities to protect our water resources.
Of all of the bureaucratic departments of state government that should be concerned about environmental aspects of legislation, the Department of Environmental Quality should be the leaders. With all of the knowledge that has been gained in the twentieth century, it should register with “leaders” that environmental quality is directly related to quality of life. How many times have we read in the newspapers, heard on the radio and television that pollution of water by industry is responsible for many of the illnesses of humanity. How quickly we forget PCBs and DDT. Environment must be a consideration in legislation of this type. It cannot be denied that recreation, public health and economic health are linked inescapably to environmental quality.
Studies in other states have shown that property values are linked to water quality. Indiana is increasing its legislative curbs on its permitting process. Other states in the midwest have seen fit to establish stricter permitting requirements, because of dangers to humans, wildlife and water quality. This year Wisconsin increased the requirements of the permitting process to include mechanical harvesting. Even if the Michigan legislature chose to ignore its residents, the state is still economically dependent on tourism dollars directly related to the recreational quality of our water resources.
Every Michigan representative and senator should carefully evaluate these bills to recognize their shortcomings. When they do so I would expect a NO vote. It is time to take a stand for the environmental quality of Michigan’s water resources rather than weakening the Department of Environmental Quality. Consider these bills wisely. Haste has never been recognized as a good legislative move.