Hoosier Environmental Council Asking for SB 229 Veto
IFA is sharing the following alert issued by Tim Maloney, Senior Policy Director, at the Hoosier Environmental Council.
SB 229 Background
Prior to European settlement, wetlands covered about one-quarter of Indiana’s land area. Most of our wetlands were drained for agriculture or to build our cities and towns, leaving less than 15% of the original wetlands acreage. Wetlands reduce flooding, purify rivers and lakes, and provide irreplaceable habitat for fish and wildlife, including ducks, herons and cranes, beaver, river otters, turtles, and frogs. Of Indiana’s 144 species of greatest conservation need, 86 occur in wetlands.
In 2003, the legislature recognized the value of preserving the remaining wetlands and adopted Indiana’s Isolated Wetlands Law.
SB 229 exempts those who *reconstruct* drains — open ditches or field tiles in rural, urban, or suburban Indiana — from obtaining a state wetlands permit. The legal definition of ‘drain reconstruction’ includes widening, deepening, or re-routing such drains; in other words, large-scale work that could destroy wetlands. Current law doesn’t prohibit reconstruction; it just requires projects to go through the permitting process to preserve as much wetland area as possible.
SB 229 is problematic because it:
– opens a broad exemption that will hurt our remaining wetlands,
– contains a key provision which is undefined
– creates regulatory confusion with federal wetlands
– creates the need for more Army Corps of Engineers involvement
The bill was opposed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the state agency charged with implementing the isolated wetlands law.
According to Purdue scientists, Indiana now receives 6.5 inches more precipitation per year than it did when data were first recorded in the 1890s, so we need the flood protection benefits of our wetlands more than ever.
SB 229 is headed to Governor Eric Holcomb’s desk; the Governor could sign this bill very soon.
Urge the Governor, via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), to veto SB 229.
Please spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, e-blast, and/or an email message to friends and colleagues.
Tim Maloney, Senior Policy Director
Hoosier Environmental Council