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Re: E-M:/ Ten years fail to bring reform

Although many of us are a bit jaded by the Michigan Drain Code, its ramifications, and proposed so-called reforms, this is a very important issue. For those not familiar with the Drain Code, it dictates activities within designated county drains and procedures for petitioning for drain designation. Any watercourse, artificial or natural, can be designated a drain.
Originally, these were to facilitate agricultural drainage, but today, the majority, at least in southeast Michigan, facilitate development, which was not necessarily the intent. Adequate site drainage of an appropriate development site is one thing, but many of these drains short-circuit thousands of acres of wetland to the nearest watercourse and out to the Great Lakes. This has been implicated in the degradation of Great Lakes water quality. At least half of the natural wetlands I encounter in southeast Michigan are partially drained by a county drain. Extensive muck swamp was eliminated from western St. Clair County and Lapeer County through these drains. As I've posted before, many open water areas indicated on the USDA, SCS Soil Survey of Lapeer County now have drain channels right through the middle of them, and no more open water. Some may say, "Good for farming", but most of these areas remain too wet to get good crops, except maybe Reed Canary Grass hay, and now too dry to support the diverse wetlands they once did.
The Michigan Drain Code needs real environmental reform. As it is now, it can theoretically be used as a great tool for watershed management. But, this is at the whim of the Drain Commissioner, and few are actually interested in that. Most view it strictly as a tool to provide agricultural drainage. This is not wrong from the perspective of the Drain Code, but we owe ourselves much better than that in 2004, especially in a time of generally falling commodity prices. Some agricultural people will argue that we need to farm more marginal land. But I say, look around and ask yourself what is really eliminating a huge portion of the land from production. It is development. And, if we are so desperate for arable land, how about we forget the deer carrots, deer corn, corn for corn burners (I can't imagine myself burning corn when people are starving), corn for corn syrup in pop, Halloween pumpkins, tobacco, etc..
Bill Collins 
Huron Ecologic, LLC
3335 Crooks Road
Rochester Hills, Michigan 48309 USA
phone & fax: 248-852-4682
e-mail: huronecologic@netzero.net
Huron Ecologic provides wetland delineations, wetland permitting, wetland mitigation design & monitoring, tree inventories, botanical & ecological surveys, natural area protection, nature education, and technical training.
-----Original Message-----
From: Sue Julian <sjulian@provide.net>
To: Enviro-mich@great-lakes.net <Enviro-mich@great-lakes.net>
Date: Friday, February 27, 2004 5:21 AM
Subject: E-M:/ Ten years fail to bring reform

>Enviro-Mich message from Sue Julian <sjulian@provide.net>
>It's been ten years since the Engler's Environmental Code Commission
>compiled all environmental laws into NREPA but omitted drain code
>legislation because of the conflicts with the Inland Lakes and Streams
>Act and the Wetland Protection Act.  We are into a new administration
>and a new century but the drain code bill (SB 217 S-4) which was voted
>out of the Senate Ag Committee on Thursday, Feb. 26, is headed to the
>Senate floor with no more environmental protection than it has had
>through all of the past legislative attempts to get this bill passed.
>There has been an effort to characterize this as a modernization of the
>old PA 40 of 1956, but, in fact, it still represents the philosophy that
>conventional drainage trumps environmental concerns.  If passed, it will
>establish this as the principle for Michigan's management of its water
>resources. Issues of surface water pollution, urban sprawl, ground water
>recharge, fish and wildlife management, Great Lakes protection and
>appropriate watershed management are all swept up in this 220 page,
>complicated legislation.
>As in previous legislative sessions, legislators in Lansing are likely
>to vote without ever reading the document.  Essentially the same bill
>was defeated in the Senate in 2000, by a combination of concerns over
>taxation, increased power of drain commissioners, and water quality
>issues that  persuaded Senators on both sides of the aisle that this was
>the wrong direction to go.
>Michigan's environmental community needs to rally once again to defeat
>this bill.
>Nothing has changed despite almost 300 amendments added by Sen.
>VanWoerkom's Ag Committee.  For specific bill information, contact the
>Michigan Drain Code Coalition, c/o Sue Julian, 248-634-3513 or
>ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
>and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at
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