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Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies

Wetlands Protection Act #91

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (MDEGLE) interpretation and enforcement of the Wetlands Protection Act saved valuable wetlands, but also placed a disproportionate burden on some landowners.

We support the changes made to the Wetlands Protection Act under PA 98 of 2013 to retain federally delegated authority of the Clean Water Act Section 404 Program. The law provided many reforms benefiting agriculture, including:

  • Defining and exempting agricultural drainage maintenance.

  • Excluding drainage structures from wetland regulation.

  • Exempting established and on-going farming operations.

  • Wetlands not being regulated if they are less than five acres and their only connection to an inland lake or stream is an agricultural drain.

  • Exempting cutting woody vegetation and in-place stump grinding within a wetland.

  • Directing MDEGLE to create a blueberry general permit with permitting flexibility, including mitigation and a blueberry assistance program.

  • Exempting construction of livestock crossings and fencing associated with grazing.

  • Not regulating temporarily obstructed drains as wetlands.

  • Declaring the MDEGLE’s delegated authority is limited to application of the Clean Water Act, associated rules, or court decisions and any further regulation is the responsibility of the Michigan Legislature.

  • Repealing Michigan’s wetland law within 160 days if the Environmental Protection Agency withdraws Michigan’s federally delegated authority for Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

  • Regulating a wetland if it meets the criteria in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 1987 Delineation Manual and Regional Supplements.

We recommend the following:

  • The MDEGLE statewide wetland inventory should not be used for regulatory purposes. Michigan Farm Bureau is concerned the inventory includes wetlands that do not meet current wetland delineation standards.

  • Compatible agricultural uses should be allowed in wetlands. Wetland vegetation should be defined as obligate hydrophytes.

  • There should be no regulation of man-made wetlands or voluntarily established wetlands implemented as conservation practices through state or federal programs.

  • Application of contaminated soils and sediments to farm fields at agronomic rates should be in accordance with state and federal requirements.

  • County drain/water resources commissions should be the sole authority on public drains, culverts and maintenance.

  • Statewide standards for wetland determinations and historical function must be established to ensure uniform application at all locations.

  • Permits must be issued promptly.

  • Where application of wetland regulation results in a substantial or total loss of the value of the property, the State must fully compensate the property owner. Control and access to the property must remain with the property owner.

  • All prior converted wetlands should be excluded from regulation.

  • Cleaning up edges of fields back to the original farmed boundaries and removing barriers such as brush and trees protruding into fields should not trigger a wetland determination or disciplinary action against the farmer/landowner.

  • Cost-sharing or other incentives should be provided for wetlands restoration programs on farms.

  • A fund should be established to compensate neighboring farms for their economic loss due to unforeseen problems created by wetland restoration.

  • MDEGLE and Natural Resources Conservation Service should completely explain in advance and in writing landowner obligations during and after a contract for the maintenance and/or reversion of a wetland.

  • Creative solutions should reflect economic and environmental realities to resolve wetlands disputes.

  • Productive agricultural land should not be used to mitigate wetlands, especially by condemnation.

  • Wetland violations should be heard within the court jurisdiction where the violation has been alleged.

  • Government agencies should cooperate and provide a single contact for regulatory compliance to handle all issues of wetland determination, enforcement, and penalties.

  • MDEGLE should recognize the section of the Wetlands Protection Act finding wetlands to be valuable as an agricultural resource for producing food and fiber, including certain crops which may only be grown on sites developed from wetlands. 

  • We oppose other states converting Michigan farmland to offset wetland mitigation.


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