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Michigan Wetlands Bill

Flickr User: Christopher Farmer

The state Senate Natural Resources Committee is expected to continue hearing testimony on a controversial Michigan wetlands bill today.

The bill would change the definition of a wetland. And deregulate as much as fifty percent of Michigan's wetlands.

The bill's sponsor, Senator Tom Casperson, says it would protect the rights of small property owners.

Environmental groups are urging people to contact their representatives and the governor's office, they say it could result in the loss of critical wetlands, especially in heavily developed parts of southern Michigan.

Senator Tom Casperson is the bill's sponsor.

He says he was motivated to change the law by small property owners who have been denied building permits or hit with heavy fines by the Department of Environmental Quality.

"If you have a field person that just deems all wetlands to be so precious that you can't touch any of it, they can simply say no to the permit and stop the person from using their land, and we fundamentally disagree with that."

Casperson added, 

“I would argue most of the wetlands nothing is going to change, other than these handful of projects that I'm talking about, and they're scattered throughout the state.”

He couldn't offer any data or reports to support his estimate of the bill's impact. However, says he's working with the EPA to make sure the bill is in compliance with federal wetlands regulations.

Environmental groups say that loss of protection could impact wildlife habitats and increase flooding in developed areas.