Opposition Floods In For Wetlands Bill Just Signed Into Law

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Kline Wetlands and Wetland Conservation Area prospers as the newest of three wetland projects established in the mid-1990s at Lake Maxinkuckee.

Opposition Floods In For Wetlands Bill Just Signed Into Law

By Alexa Shrake

TheStatehouseFile.com 

INDIANAPOLIS—Gov. Eric Holcomb drew sharp criticism Friday after signing legislation to remove state protections from Indiana’s wetlands, a measure opposed by businesses and environmental groups as well as a fifth-grader from Carmel.

Senate Enrolled Act 389 repeals the requirement of a permit for development or other impacts on wetlands and creates a task force to study wetlands.

SEA 389, which removes state protections from Indiana’s wetlands, has been opposed by environmental organizations and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy of the DNR/Outdoor Indiana.

Over 100 organizations opposed SEA 389, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s surprising and very disappointing that the governor signed a bill that is likely to have negative impacts on Indiana’s water quality, flood control and quality of place factors that the state needs to attract and retain a skilled workforce,” Kevin Brinegar, Indiana Chamber of Commercepresident and CEO, said in a statement issued Friday.

Indra Frank, environmental health and water policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, saw “unprecedented unity” from organizations opposing the bill.

“We actually see this as a historically damaging bill,” Frank said. “This is one of the biggest setbacks in the history of Indiana environmental policy.”

According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, wetlands are home to wildlife and filters for drinking water and offer protection from floods.

Wednesday, the day before Holcomb signed the bill into law, Leo Berry, 11, founder of Helping Ninjas, which is an organization of youth environmentalists, went to the governor’s office at the Statehouse and delivered a petition with over 31,000 signatures asking for a veto.

“I know he felt let down by our governor. He was really hopeful,” said Rep. Maureen Bauer, D-South Bend, who voted against the bill. “I know Leo is not done. I told him I will work with him in the future and continue to protect our environment.”

Bauer said Leo, a fifth-grader in Carmel, is passionate about the future and wants to help.

“We have a right to a secure future, one that we can live in. The world that has been given to us, all of these wonderful things, and we continue to destroy it. If we continue to take everything from this world, there will be nothing left and neither will we,” Leo wrote on the Helping Ninjas site.

The House Environmental Affairs Committee amended the bill to restore some wetlands protection during the final weeks of the legislative session, which recessed April 22.

“Rather than trying to take a meat cleaver to this, we were a little more surgical and prescriptive in just trying to identify the problem and working within that,” said Rep. Harold Slager, R-Schererville during the committee hearing.

Holcomb has said he signed SEA 389 because he felt like the changes that were made improved the bill.

Indiana Democratic Party spokesman Drew Anderson said the passage of the bill has more to do with Republican interests than the wellbeing of Hoosiers.

“By signing Senate Enrolled Act 389—the wetlands bill—Governor Eric Holcomb once again proved that he would rather buckle to the demands of special interests and extreme partisanship than do what’s necessary to protect the future of our state,” Anderson said.

Most provisions in the bill take effect July 1.

“With the task force that is going ahead, I’m hopeful we can prove our case that we need our wetlands and we need to protect all classes of wetlands,” Bauer said. “I don’t think we’re done just yet.”

FOOTNOTE:  Alexa Shrake is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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1 COMMENT

  1. You’re not being a Socialist/Liberal to “WANT CLEAN DRINKING WATER.”

    Where do you think clean drinking water comes from?

    This is not brain surgery. It comes from the sky, filters through the ground in wetlands (not down rivers, that goes to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico) and fills acquifers where we pump water out of the ground AND DRINK IT.

    Clean drinking water. It’s not a socialist liberal thing, folks. It’s NOT conservative to hate wetland protection. It’s common sense. WE NEED CLEAN DRINKING WATER in our communities.

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