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Senate Bill 163: Wetland Program Reform

June 6th, 2013

Summary: SB 163 (S-2) reforms Michigan’s wetland protection statutes to comply with an EPA audit of Michigan’s program, as well as clarify some definitions and exempted activities.

Current Status: Passed in House and Senate.

Analysis: This bill provides many changes to activities that are exempted from applying for a wetland permit from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), including county and agricultural drain maintenance, certain agricultural and livestock activities, and road and utility maintenance. The bill improves flexibility in mitigation requirements and enhancing the use of wetland mitigation banking.

Rather than using the 500′ or 1,000′ buffer from a water body to determine what should constitute a contiguous regulated wetland, they have clarified that a wetland is not contiguous if there is not a direct physical contact and no surface water or interflowing groundwater connection, and requires the DEQ to make a determination at the applicant’s request. This could increase the workload of the DEQ without any increase in funding to accomplish the work.

MUCC Action: While MUCC has reviewed the substitute language for SB 163 (H-3), we understand that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has some concerns with some of the bill language but has not said whether this new regulatory program would allow Michigan to continue to operate under the federal assumption.  Our primary concern is that Michigan maintains the assumption of the federal wetland program. At this point, MUCC will reserve taking a position on this legislation until the EPA has reviewed the legislation for compliance with federal regulations.

Sponsor: Sen. Mike Green (R—Mayville)

MUCC Policy Resolution: AC140609: MICHIGAN WETLAND PROTECTION—MUCC oppose any initiatives to retain the federal government to provide sole oversight and regulation over wetlands in the state.

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