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GLIN==> consultants and h.b.231



Hello,

Here is the public listserve posting regarding dishonest consultants
hired by developers to destroy wetlands in Michigan.  It is shocking,
and it fits the profile of many of the contractors I have dealt with in
the several years that I worked with them.  The really bad news is that
Ohio's h.b.231 depends on the same brand of consultants to honestly
delineate natural wetlands, and design and construct manmade wetlands
during the lame mitigation process.  Wetlands in Ohio are in serious
trouble.  As you know mitigation doesn't work in the first place, now we
have house bill 231 in Ohio which embraces mitigation at the expense of
water quality, flood control, wildlife habitat, and extra storm sewer
assessments to Ohio's citizens.

The Posting:

From:       "Huron Ecologic LLC"
<huronecologic@netzero.net>
Mon 8:15 PM Subject:       Re: E-M:/ wetland replacement not all it's
cracked up to be    To:       "Dave Dempsey"
<davemec@voyager.net>,"Enviro-Mich@Great-Lakes.Net"
<enviro-mich@great-lakes.net>

>From my perspective as a wetland consultant for the past 11 years, much
of the State-regulated wetland is not accounted for, even in permit
applications, making the statistics for wetland mitigation that much
more meaningless. A large amount of regulated wetland has been omitted
from the permit process, mostly because of consultants' efforts to
deregulate wetland and MDEQ/administration failure to hold them to
actual wetland boundaries. I can't provide a good estimate of the
wetland acreage not accounted for, as it varies widely according to
region, consultant, project, and other factors, but I think I can safely
say that the total well exceeds that taken by permit. I would guess that
it's at least a multiple of 2 or 3. Most consultants know that you can
usually get more wetland impact through delineation games than through
permits. 

These games routinely include: Overly tight delineation across a site
("creativemicro-delineation" as I call it); Artificial upland breaks (on
paper) where critical to breaking-up wetland into less than 5-acre areas
or keeping it more than 500 feet from a lake, pond, or stream;
Delineation in August through early November, usually the driest part of
the growing season, and MDEQ confirmation in winter (although in most
cases, hydrology indicators persist throughout the year, and soil
indicators are always present under normal circumstances); Skewed
hydrology data and interpretation; Largely unfounded claims of hydrology
depletion; and other strategies of "divide and conquer". Occasionally we
deal with delineations and data ranging from technically flawed, to
outright lies, to the bizarre. A common technical flaw in Saint Clair
County, for example, is that many consultants seem to think that wetland
doesn't occur on sand because it typically has a high chroma (bright
color) when in fact, the 1987 Army Corps of Engineers Manual (used
throughout the U.S. and commonly in place of the MDNR and MDEQ draft
manuals) has a special section on sandy soils, which states at one point
that, "In particular, soil color should not be used as an indicator in
most sandy soils." An outright lie included the revision of a site plan
to make a wetland appear as though it was greater than 500 feet from a
stream. The bizarre has included a vegetation list in a report of
"various shrubs" and a reference to "Lake Macomb" more commonly known as
Lake Saint Clair. Another site had "stressed Purple Loosestrife"
indicating that, while the wetland was still there, its hydrology was on
its way out and should therefore, not be considered wetland. Oh my. 

Many developers know that the more consultants you have review a site,
the smaller the wetland gets. Obviously consultants want to keep their
clients happy, and it just looks bad if you find more wetland than the
previous consultant. And if you want to increase your chances for more
work, you better find less.  Aside from bad delineation, there are some
factors just naturally limit wetland protection. Many large sites have
the benefit of requiring a lot of physical effort to observe, especially
on a hot day like this. Larger sites with few landmarks can make it
difficult to know where you're at, let alone if the ribbons match the
surveyed boundaries on the site plan.  And sometimes the mosquitoes,
black flies, deer flies, poison ivy, and other elements seem to conspire
for their own destruction. Some apparently think I'm too picky about
wetland, but it is all of these little things that are being used to
permanently destroy our wetland resources on a large scale. This is not
to mention the many other methods of making wetland go away, including
physical manipulation, illegal drainage, politics, lawsuits, Contested
Case Hearings, illegal filling, and who knows what else.    

 Even if Michigan's wetland law (Part 303 of Act 451 of 1994, NREPA) was
perfectly enforced, few realize that much of our wetland in rural
Michigan is not regulated. According to State law, only in counties with
populations of 100,000 is wetland over 5 acres regulated. Otherwise, the
wetland must be contiguous: connected by surface water to, or within 500
feet of, a lake, pond, or stream, or within 1,000 feet of the Great
Lakes. Of course, the definition of "lake", "pond", and especially
"stream" is open to a lot of interpretation. It would be unusual that a
large wetland area in northern Michigan should not be contiguous to a
lake, pond, or stream at some point, but technically, if not contiguous,
even wetlands of 100's of acres would not require a permit from MDEQ to
be impacted.  Also, much of the wetland left after a permit is issued
tends to be highly fragmented and isolated from its original hydrologic
and ecological context within the landscape. At best, the regulatory
process, as legislated, isolates wetland and treats it as largely a
one-dimensional resource. In the long-term, this is not a sustainable
approach.   

In regard to wetland mitigation, some are poorly designed, but from my
experience, much of the failure is the result of contractor deviation
from the mitigation plan. Few contractors have experience in wetland
mitigation, and if it's not drawn on a site plan, don't expect it to get
done. I had a mitigation area suffer from a contractor stealing our good
topsoil and failing to segregate out topsoil full of Phragmites as I
directed. On this same site, there is an area with way too much
hydrology because we were denied access to a natural drainage outlet
after the development was completed, and another area with too little
hydrology because it was designed to accept stormwater from future
outlot development that has not taken place. Another mitigation area
remains unfinished after two years because of many contractor excuses,
the last of which was that his only bulldozer operator quit to go
hunting on opening day of deer season. On top of that, they never did
any surveying to confirm the elevations I specified in the plan. 

Those familiar with the National Wetlands Inventory maps realize that
they are not entirely accurate, having been produced largely by aerial
photograph interpretation. They tend to indicate a minimum of wetland in
flatter areas but are fairly close in hilly areas. The NWI maps have
been produced for wetland across Michigan and the U.S.. Even many of
these wetlands are written off by consultants and regulatory agencies. 
Someday, when we're all done with these regulatory games (one way or
another) the NWI maps will tell much of the story. Unfortunately, I
think the story will be the general failure of the regulatory process in
the late 20th and early 21st centuries. I don't mean to discount the
efforts of anyone sincerely working in the regulatory program (including
myself), but as some are aware, there are serious problems. 

Bill Collins Huron Ecologic, LLC    

-----Original Message-----From: Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>To:
Enviro-Mich@Great-Lakes.Net <enviro-mich@great-lakes.net>Date: Sunday,
July 22, 2001 11:53 PMSubject: E-M:/ wetland replacement not all it's
cracked up to

be>------------------------------------------------------------------------->Enviro-Mich
message from "Dave Dempsey"

<davemec@voyager.net>>------------------------------------------------------------------------->>Since
 Michigan has legally permitted more than 1,600 acres of
wetlands>to be destroyed to make room for houses, malls, schools, roads,
condominiums>and businesses. That's an area larger than 1,322 football
fields.>>To offset the loss, state officials have required developers to
create an>average of about 1.5 acres of new wetlands for each acre that
is filled.>>But an audit by the agency that regulates them shows the
state rarely checks>whether those wetlands were built. About half are
too small, less than a>quarter work the way they are supposed to and
many weren't built, according>to the Department of Environmental Quality
study.>>http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf?/news/stories/20010719l722wetwrite.frm>>>

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