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E-M:/ Deal nears in wetlands case involving Midland developer

Deal nears in wetlands case involving Midland developer

DETROIT -- A Michigan businessman has agreed to pay a $150,000 civil penalty and complete a 100-acre wetlands mitigation project near Midland as final settlement of a 14-year-old property rights case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

John Rapanos has also agreed to leave undeveloped about another 135 acres as part of a proposed settlement of a civil lawsuit filed against him by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The federal government filed the proposed consent order today in U.S. District Court in Detroit. The order is still subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by Chief U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman.

In 2006, in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said there must be a substantial connection between wetlands and the waters they feed in order for the land to fall under the Clean Water Act. But the court did not define how close to a waterway wetlands must be to merit federal protection. The Supreme Court sent the Rapanos case back to the federal court in Detroit, leading to the proposed settlement.