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E-M:/ DEQ Proposes Destructive Permit for Coastal Wetlands

Enviro-Mich message from "Chris Grubb" <chrisgrubb@watershedcouncil.org>

July 30, 2004

Contact: Chris Grubb (231) 347 - 1181 x 118

Wetland Permit Ignores Scientists Testimony, Threatens Public Trust
Coastal Wetlands
	The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality today released
for public comment a General Permit category that further endangers
Michigan's Great Lakes coastal wetlands. The permit would allow one or
more shoreline property owners in Grand Traverse Bay and Saginaw Bay, or
local units of government on behalf of any or all of their shoreline
property owners, to apply for a permit to remove vegetation, impairing
the wetland's ability to prevent erosion, provide fish and wildlife
habitat and protect water quality.
	The destructive wetland amendments passed last year allowed for,
but did not require, the DEQ to establish a General Permit category for
this type of activity. This move by the DEQ is in response to pressure
from a narrow special interest group that represents a small minority of
shoreline property owners. "As we all know, the DEQ is severely
restricted in their ability to protect Michigan's valuable wetland
resources because of shrinking budgets. It is shameful that they choose
to waste their limited resources servicing a very few property owners
who don't value the dynamic nature of the lakes," said Chris Grubb,
coordinator of the Michigan Wetland Action Coalition, a statewide
coalition of wetland advocates.
      At a hearing in May of the state Senate Natural Resources and
Environmental Affairs Committee, several prominent scientists testified
that coastal wetlands are some of the most ecologically valuable areas
in the Great Lakes, providing fish and wildlife habitat, erosion
control, and water quality protection, and that so-called "beach
grooming" activities can impair all of those functions. Senators on both
sides of the aisle expressed concern about what they heard. "I thought
when we passed this legislation it was a good compromise," said Sen. Ray
Basham, D-Taylor. "Had I heard this discussion a year ago, it would have
probably influenced my decision." Added Sen. Gerald VanWoerkom,
R-Muskegon: "I was surprised and troubled by what I heard today." 
      Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council's Wil Cwikiel also presented, in
written testimony, the results from a study in Racine, Wisconsin showing
significantly increased concentrations of E. coli found on mechanically
groomed areas of the beach compared with areas left un-groomed. As of
July 15, Michigan public beaches exceeded acceptable E. coli standards
93 times this summer. The possibility that mechanical grooming can
exacerbate the problem is a major concern. Terry Miller, of the Lone
Tree Council near Saginaw Bay, says, "In light of studies showing E.
coli is concentrated on mechanically groomed beaches, beachfront
property owners would be better served if they taught their children and
grandchildren to appreciate wetland flora and fauna rather than arm
twisting the legislature and the DEQ to allow them to plow and disc
emergent wetlands."  
      Unlike traditional wetland permit applications, activities that
fall under the DEQ's General Permit are not put out for public notice
and comment. "Given the scientists' testimony about the value of
Michigan's Great Lakes coastal wetlands, it is inappropriate for the DEQ
to cut out the public voice when reviewing permits to degrade such an
important public trust resource," said Grubb. The Department of
Environmental Quality is currently soliciting public comments until
September 13, 2004 on whether or not to establish this General Permit
category. The proposed General Permit category can be viewed at the
Michigan Wetland Action Coalition website, www.michiganwetlands.org.
      Grubb concluded, "The Michigan Wetland Action Coalition will be
reaching out to all Michiganders to provide input during the public
comment period. We must send the DEQ a message that we refuse to accept
further relaxing of protection for a public trust resource - our
precious Great Lakes coastal wetlands."

The Michigan Wetland Action Coalition (MWAC), a project of Tip of the
Mitt Watershed Council, is a network of wetland protection advocates
across the state. MWAC is focused on promoting sound wetland protection
policies at the state and federal level through education and advocacy.

Chris Grubb, Policy Associate
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
426 Bay Street
Petoskey, MI 49770
(231) 347-1181 ext. 118
fax: (231) 347-5928
email: chrisgrubb@watershedcouncil.org

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