Save the Dunes Council, together with the Indiana Division of the Izaak Walton League, and Cedar Creek Wildlife Project, Inc. continue to educate Indiana residents about two wetlands bills that have stalled in the General Assembly. A Senate committee has stripped the legislation from the House bill (HB 1221) it was considering, and the chairman of the corresponding House committee said he would not hear the Senate bill (SB 491).
The language in both bills is threatening to Indiana’s remaining wetlands and would be especially devastating to small, rare wetland types such as the dune and swale in northwest Indiana. Both bills, as last amended, would exempt most of Indiana’s remaining functioning wetlands from protection. They would facilitate development in wetlands, and lack adequate mitigation requirements. The bills would also impose new costs on state government, while making no calculation of the loss to the public of wetlands benefits for clean water, flood control, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities. Other problems in the bills include removing authority from Indiana regulatory agencies and their rulemaking boards, and diminishing Indiana’s Water Quality Standards, policies, and goals.
The groups are urging support of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management rules for wetlands that were preliminarily adopted in February 2002. Opposition from some in the regulated community caused Indiana legislators to block final passage of the rules, which would have provided much better protection of wetlands and water quality.