The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337

Michigan Torpedoes Its Own Great Lakes Restoration Plan

Small Savings from Wetlands Repeal Would Be Swamped by Higher Flood Damages


Just days after Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm
unveiled an ambitious plan to restore the Great Lakes, she moved to knock out
one of its main planks - the state's own wetlands protection program,
according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Even
the small savings Gov. Granholm hopes to achieve by repealing the state wetlands
law would be lost in higher storm and flood damage, concludes a new white paper
by state experts.

In January 2009, Gov. Granholm released a grandly titled Michigan's
Great Lakes Plan, Our Path to Protect, Restore, and Sustain Michigan's Natural
Treasures which stressed the central role of her state's wetlands program,
considered one of the nation's best. The final plan crafted after months
of meetings and public comments urged not just the retention but an expansion
of the wetlands program by -

  • Restoring "500,000 acres of wetlands (10 percent of historic
    losses) and establish up to 1,000,000 acres of associated upland grassland 2079, which will be the 100-year anniversary of Michigan's
    Wetland Protection Statute.";
  • Within the next three years, increasing the rate of wetlands restoration
    by 50 percent; and
  • Securing federal funding to support the "wetlands protection
    program within the MDEQ [Michigan Department of Environmental Quality]".

Despite these lofty New Year resolutions, by her February 3, 2009 State of
the State speech the Governor was advocating that the state abandon its 30-year
old wetlands law. This reversal came within the same month that President Obama
proposed a half-billion dollar state-federal Great Lakes partnership.

"Restoring the Great Lakes is vital to the future of Michigan but to
achieve that goal the state cannot just walk away from its responsibilities," stated
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Governor Granholm knows better than
to push a budget plan that is the equivalent of eating your seed corn."

A new white paper by the Michigan Stormwater and Floodplain Association puts
the slight estimated savings from the wetlands repeal in perspective:

"The entire savings from eliminating the state's wetland protection
act is reported to be 2 million dollars out of a 1.6 billion dollar deficit.
The savings that would be generated by this proposal do not offset the loss
of benefits that the residents of Michigan realize from having this permitting
authority.... [Case in point] these additional wetland losses and increased
stormwater volumes will lead to increased flood losses (property damage) for
the residents of the State of Michigan." (Emphasis in original)

"Axing Michigan's wetland protections is the epitome of a 'pound
foolish' economy," added Ruch, noting that legislative hearings
on the plan are slated to begin next week on March 17th.

Look at the 2009 Michigan plan for Great Lakes restoration
(See pages 28 - 37 for wetlands discussion)

Read the Michigan Stormwater and Floodplain Association white paper on flood

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.