May 26, 2017Review requested regarding Michigan wetlands program
Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce are asking the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new Administrator, Scott Pruitt, that the agency conduct a second review of the state’s Clean Water Act permitting program, currently administered through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
According to a MFB news release, MDEQ’s delegated authority is again in jeopardy of being revoked by the EPA following a December 2016 program review, which was critical of several key provisions of Michigan’s wetlands law (P.A. 98 of 2013).
Michigan is one of only two states that have “delegated authority” to enforce key portions of the Clean Water Act for the EPA, and it receives more than $2 million a year in General Fund money to administer it under the Michigan Wetlands and Inland Lakes and Streams acts.
“For more than 30 years, Michigan has effectively managed the state’s wetlands permitting program under delegated authority from the EPA,” said Matt Smego, MFB Government Relations Department Manager. “We believe our state’s program is functionally equivalent to and as stringent as the standards imposed by the Clean Water Act.”
Smego said MFB and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce have submitted a joint letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt detailing 11 legal arguments against the EPA’s determination and the exemptions lost in the review which included:
- Exemption for controlled access of livestock to streams for watering/crossing
- Exemption for placement of biological residuals in wetlands
- Exemptions for incidental wetlands as a result of upland agricultural drain construction, and for soil/water conservation practices
- Ability to protect/enhance conservation easement sites as part of mitigation requirements
- Agricultural drains not determining whether a wetland is contiguous to a regulated lake or stream
“It is our belief that the EPA’s final determination regarding Michigan’s revised program was in error, as it appeared to discount, if not entirely neglect, a number of mitigating factors and legal principles that would, together, mandate the opposite conclusion: that Michigan’s program, as amended, is functionally equivalent to and at least as stringent as the standards imposed by CWA Section 404 and should therefore be approved, as written. For this reason, we believe a second review of Michigan’s amended program is both appropriate and necessary,” the letter concluded
Signed by MFB President Carl Bednarski and Michigan Chamber of Commerce President Richard Studley, the organizations collectively represent thousands of individuals and businesses that are impacted daily by the Clean Water Act requirements and would prefer the program allow them to work locally with MDEQ experts who understand Michigan’s complicated wetlands, streams and lakes.