By Linda Gibson
The Indiana House on April 13th passed a wetlands regulation bill that includes creation of a task force to study wetlands and recommend actions to be taken.
Number one on the list of six goals was this: “Strategies to mitigate the costs incurred by builders to comply with the state regulation of wetland activity…while maintaining the integrity of those environmental safeguards.”
Other goals included studying flood reduction benefits of isolated wetlands, the role of isolated wetlands in storing carbon dioxide, and recommending incentives for developers to preserve existing wetlands and avoid affecting them.
Environmental groups had urged establishment of the task force instead of (or at least before) the wholesale deletion of the wetlands regulation law, which the bill originally proposed. That original bill drew opposition from more than 80 groups, ranging from hunters to flood control experts.
The Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) released a statement opposing the bill as currently written, saying it eliminates protection for Class I wetlands and reduces protection for Class II wetlands. Classes I and II make up 58 percent and 41 percent of Indiana wetlands, respectively, according to estimates by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, wrote HEC.
The bill now returns to the Senate, where author Chris Garten, a Republican who owns a countertop store, will accept or reject the amendments. If he rejects them, a conference committee of Senate and House members will try to come up with a compromise bill.
If the bill passes, the task force is to report its findings to the Legislature, the governor and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management by Nov. 1, 2022.