Wetlands mitigation may get cheaper for local governments

By CHAO YAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — A new partnership of state and local agencies is working to set aside state land to make it easier for public entities with expansion needs to fulfill wetlands replacement requirements.

Because wetlands play a vital role in the health of the state’s environment and its tourism economy, the Wetlands Protection Act requires damage to wetlands that happens under a permit be compensated by creating a wetland someplace else.

The Michigan Municipal Wetland Alliance (MMWA) is developing a wetlands mitigation bank system using Department of Natural Resources (DNR) property as bank sites.

“By us using state-owned lands, we are saving on the purchase of lands for the development sites and restoration sites,” Stephen Shine, the wetland mitigation bank administrator for the DNR, said. “And we are creating an added benefit for those state-owned lands by enhancing recreational opportunities for a whole variety of enthusiasts — everything from birdwatchers, people who like to hike, hunters.” Continue reading

Court upholds $10,000 fine, restoration order in wetlands case

By ERIC FREEDMAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Property owners who converted wetlands to a horse pasture without a state permit must restore the site and pay a $10,000 civil fine, the Court of Appeals has ruled.

The three-judge appeals panel unanimously upheld a trial judge’s order that Hernan and Bethany Gomez remove 1.2 acres of fill material they illegally placed in a wetland on their 54-acre Livingston County parcel between 2005 and 2010.

The Gomezes said they did it because they wanted to construct a “working ranch” with horses next to their new house.

Wetlands are continuing to disappear in Michigan, according to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The state’s current 6.5 million acres of wetlands is down from 10.7 million acres before European settlement. Continue reading

Canals help restore, restock Lake Erie’s largest wetland

By GREG MONAHAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — A four-phase, five-year process is underway to restore one of the largest coastal wetlands in Lake Erie.

Erie Marsh has been cut off from Lake Erie since the 1940s. The Nature Conservancy is changing that. (Photo: The Nature Conservancy)

Erie Marsh has been cut off from Lake Erie since the 1940s. The Nature Conservancy is changing that. (Photo: The Nature Conservancy)

Erie Marsh contains 2,217 acres of wetlands that are home to 65 species of fish and 300 species of migratory birds. That’s according to The Nature Conservancy, the organization tasked with cleaning up the marsh.

Only around 5 percent of the wetlands in western Lake Erie remain from the mid-1900s, when pollution and dike construction harmed the quality and flow of the water, according to the director of the operation to restore the marsh in southeast Michigan near the Ohio border.

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Wetlands remain in peril, experts warn

By MATTHEW HALL

Capital News Service

LANSING – A large gain in the size of Michigan’s coastal wetlands between 2004-09 may obscure much larger, longer-term losses that are likely to continue, experts say.

The Great Lakes region gained 13,000 acres in the five-year period, according to a report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but much of the gains is due to low levels in the Great Lakes.

The report highlighted how the rate of coastal wetland loss across the United States is increasing.

Public and private efforts to preserve wetlands have also added small gains, but researchers and state regulators cautioned that those gains need to be put in the context of a long-term overall loss of wetlands in Michigan.

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Wetland restoration snags millions for two projects

By XINJUAN DENG

Capital News Service

LANSING – Two federal grants of $1 million each will help restore wetlands and migratory bird habitats in Michigan.

The projects include work on water control and distribution structures in the Saginaw Bay area, Southeast Michigan and the Lake Michigan area.

Tom Melius, Midwest regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said, “Wetlands in the upper Midwest not only serve as indicators of water quality for our communities, but also serve as the breeding and resting grounds for hundreds of species.” Continue reading