Revised Michigan wetlands bill SB 1211 awaits signature or veto
Updated: Jan 7
A revised version of the controversial wetlands bill SB 1211 passed the Michigan Legislature December 21, leaving wetlands that are greater than five acres protected as is the current Michigan law.
According to James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council policy director, this new version “would protect far more wetlands than were protected under earlier versions of the bill.” https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2018/12/21/michigan-wetlands-development-legislation/2350244002/. The Senate version had attempted to remove protections for wetlands between five to ten acres.
Water advocate Jen Schlicht weighed in on interpretation of 1211, should it be signed into law. “As I understand it, the bill [SB 1211] allows wetlands over 5 acres to retain their protection even if they are not connected to another body of water. So while the revisions to 1211 are a lot better than what was initially proposed, any loss of protections to our wetlands is cause for alarm.”
“The cumulative effect from the small wetlands that have now lost their protections is still significant, especially as areas that have lost most of their historic wetlands are the same areas likely to have those sub-five acre wetlands,” explained Schlicht. “So at a time when due to climate change and development we are already seeing more severe and frequent heavy rain flood events, losing more wetlands is not ideal.”
The earlier version of SB 1211 that passed the Michigan Senate on December 4 would have left 500,000 acres of Michigan wetlands and 4,500 inland lakes without environmental protections, exposing wetlands to risk of filling, draining, or dredging without requirements for permits or approval.
Michigan has already lost 4.2 million acres of wetlands since the 1800s, according to a 2015 report by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ): https://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/09/michigan_has_lost_about_42_mil.html
Unresolved conservation and water safety crises in the state—including Line 5, PFAS, Nestle, and Flint’s lead-contaminated drinking water—have remained at the forefront of Michigan’s 2018 election cycle and lame duck session.