Ohio has already lost 90 percent of its wetlands, yet the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) has proposed rules that would adversely affect isolated wetlands in Ohio – those wetlands not connected to waterways. Approximately 45 percent of the remaining wetlands in Ohio are considered “isolated.”
The newly proposed rules make it easier for developers to destroy existing natural wetlands. Although apparently meeting a “no net loss” of wetlands mandated by federal policy, the state rules make it easier to “move” and “replace” wetlands. Wetlands most likely would be destroyed by development in one area, and replaced outside of the watershed or region in which they were originally found. The rules do not include policies of avoidance
of wetlands, minimization of effects on wetlands, or mitigation of wetlands near the original site. And there is concern that these new rules may be broadly applied to all wetlands.
Studies have shown that new wetlands built through mitigation agreements lack the functions of natural wetlands. This problem is compounded if they are built outside of the area the original wetland served. A National Academy of Sciences study outlines the deficiencies of constructed wetlands. The new rules should address this problem–if a wetland is allowed to be destroyed, the rules should, at a minimum, require that its wetland functions are replaced within the same watershed.
The OEPA should be in the business of protecting our remaining wetlands. A closer look at these proposed rules is necessary to do that. Conservation organizations throughout the state have submitted comments outlining the problems affecting wetlands inherent in the proposed rules, and suggested solutions. Visit their website at: www.nap.edu/books/0309074320/html/