Michigan’s Wetlands and the Environmental Protection Agency

March 12, 2009 // 0 Comments

by KIM SAPKOWSKI Rogue River Watershed Council One of Michigan’s greatest resources is its abundance and high quality of water. Wetlands play a key role in this vital natural resource. Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs. Wetlands control flooding by absorbing rain and snow melt, (thus they have earned the nickname “nature’s kidneys”), they filter and control fluctuating levels of ground water, they filter sediment and pollution from stormwater run off and they provide recreational opportunities for fishing and hunting. Wetlands are also key habitat to fish, insects, amphibians and birds, like the bald eagle and American bittern. Many animals like the gray wolf, white tailed deer and otters rely on wetlands for food and a place to rest. Many plants that are unique to wetlands are essential for habitat survival. Governor Granholm has urged the State legislature to hand over regulation of Michigan’s wetlands to the EPA in order to cut spending on what she terms as “duplication of services.” Others want to do away with Michigan’s wetlands permitting process in order to remove roadblocks for business expansion. On the surface this seems like a good idea. Why have a state program in place that does exactly what the EPA already does? On closer inspection, it becomes clear that the EPA wetlands regulations are not the same as Michigan’s. Here’s why: Currently, Michigan law regulates the permitting of wetlands that are five acres or more and/or are contiguous to a body of water. That body of water could be a lake, a stream or a seasonal stream. The EPA, however, only permits wetlands that are adjacent to navigable waters. That leaves thousands of acres of “stand alone” wetlands, those that are not adjacent to navigable water, unprotected. Anyone could fill in and dig up wetlands without a permit. So, what’s the big deal? It’s their property so who cares? Well, the big deal is that by filling in a wetland, we are shutting down a crucial part of nature’s function. When we fill wetlands, we jeopardize our health and economic well being. Loss of wetlands means poor water quality, flooding and the property damage that goes along with it. Loss of wetlands means […]