Proposal would exempt some road projects from wetlands requirement

A proposed bill would prohibit the DEQ from imposing wetland mitigation requirements on some road projects. Photo: c.a.muller via Flickr

BY PAIGE LaBARGE

LANSING — A new Senate bill would prohibit the state from imposing mitigation requirements on some road projects that damage wetlands.

Sen. Tom Casperson, R- Escanaba, sponsored the measure that would apply to projects with the right-of-way of existing roads.

“The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), is saying they can’t go along with this because it is violating federal law and the quality of environment in Michigan, but so many things can be positively affected if the bill is passed,” Casperson said.

The bill would prohibit the DEQ from imposing wetland mitigation requirements on some road projects, said Brad Wurfel, press secretary at the Department of natural Resources and Environment.

Mitigation requires new wetlands to be created if an existing one was previously filled in by road construction.

Wurfel said the DEQ can’t comment about its stance on the bill but said environmental quality could be harmed.

Ed Noyola, deputy director of the County Road Association of Michigan, said the change would benefit the road system, even though it could hurt the environment.

“This bill would definitely have an impact on roads, but for the DEQ, it could jeopardize environmental qualities,” Noyola said.

For example, it would make budgeting easier, reduce permits and make road projects more cost-efficient, he said.

“It would be a streamlined process, not needing mitigation for the building of roads,” Noyola said.

Co-sponsors include Sens. R- Darwin Booher, R-Tory Rocca, R- Howard Walker and R-John Proos.

Casperson said he introduced the bill to alleviate costs of road-building by county road commissions and to upgrade roads, as long as they stay within existing right-of-ways.

“The road commissions throughout the state are frustrated right now because they have to get permission, through permits, to mitigate wetlands for road-building,” Casperson said.

They must go through a permit process and have to build–or not build–based on what the department says, according to Casperson.

According to Casperson, the most significant improvement would be in funding, because commissions devote time to obtain permits when they could be improving the roads.

“Better roads means better transportation to all areas of the state, and this boosts the overall economy and gives the road commissions more money,” Casperson said.

If the bill is passed, it will apply to state highways, and city and county roads.

It’s pending in the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.

  • Mindy

    It would also be cost effective to kill all other organisms once and for all anyway. Streamlined, human-ruled planet. Let’s just keep all those little annoying budget-problems like animals, plants, life-sustaining nutrient recycling wetland soils out of the way, eh? Wetlands probably don’t matter… just some muck. Budgets come first before fresh air and clean water, always. Who cares that wetlands store the world’s fresh surface water resources. Although just 0.01% of all the water of our planet, it is crucial for our survival. Nbd… wetlands store more carbon than twice the amount in all the world forests. Loosing wetlands would cause a climate disaster due to carbon releases, but who really cares?

  • Joe

    What do you expect from Republicans?

  • Harold

    We already have far too many roads. More roads just leads to more traffic and more congestion–not to mention continually higher gas and property taxes. Wetland mitigation requirements have never stopped a road project. This is simply a blatant attempt to undermine what little environmental protections we have. It’s no wonder that all of the sponsors are Republican.

  • Don

    The current legislature is on a binge of eliminating or circumventing environmental protection. Do they really believe that the state should exempt governmental units from complying with our laws and yet expect the private sector to comply? Ideas like this fuel an already excessive distrust of government.

  • http://CoverThePlanet.org David Poulson
  • Chuck

    I would be glad to offer my state senator my opinion, but when you do so and do not have the senate bill number your impact is problematic. How about including the SB #?

  • Paul

    Oh great, our streams are drowning in sand and silt bed loads from graveled county and state roads, that suffocate aquatic life and increase flooding danger. We are losing thousands of acres of groundwater cleansing wetlands annually that also mitigate flooding, and the Repugs want to make it cheaper and easier to build roads and increase the destructive effects. They cannot see beyond the nose on their face, except for the dollar signs ($) being held out by corporate Amerika.