by Paul J. Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director
As reported last month, the ruling in the SCOTUS case Sackett vs EPA, reduced the scope of the waters and wetlands regulated by the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). Questions have arisen about what that means for Michigan, at least for now. The good news is Michigan has wetland protection laws that exceed the current federal standards. In fact, EGLE just issued the following statement: “…EGLE will continue to administer state law which provides effective protection of Michigan’s wetlands, lakes and streams but also streamlines the program for the regulated community…”
The ability to to protect our wetlands is based on Michigan being one of three states given authority by the federal government to administer its own wetlands program under state law. New Jersey and Florida are the other 2 states.
The key to more protection is the language in MCL 324.30301(1)(n) (The NREPA) which is the lengthy definition for wetlands in Michigan. Just the beginning starts off as: “… n) Wetland; means a land or water feature, commonly referred to as a bog, swamp, or marsh, inundated or saturated by water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances does support, hydric soils and a predominance of wetland vegetation or aquatic life. A land or water feature is not a wetland unless it meets any of the following…” For the full definition, follow this link: Wetland Definition
So, Michigan’s wetlands are protected, for now? For now, YES, but what about the future?
Indiana our neighbor to the south is an example of what could happen. In April 2021, the Indiana Governor signed into law provisions that removed protections for Class I, generally low-quality wetlands that have been partially disturbed by human activity or minimally support wildlife or aquatic habitat. This was done in spite of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management report that Class I wetlands accounted for 58% of Indiana’s remaining wetlands. The Indiana roll backs were pushed for by developers, manufacturing and real estate interests.
So continued vigilance on the part of riparians is required. We also need SB14 to be signed into law, as way help retain the existing and favorable Michigan Law regulating wetlands.