DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
DEQ GOES ON NEW LAND GRAB
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is headed for the biggest land grab it has ever attempted.
Michigan adopted a Wetlands Protection statute years ago which gave the DEQ the right to regulate wetlands and protect them. The statute defines wetlands as a "bog, swamp, or marsh" which is "contiguous to the Great Lakes or Lake St. Clair, an inland lake or pond, or a river or stream." In order to have control over property which is not contiguous, the DEQ must inventory the wetlands in a county and file the inventory with the register of deeds if the wetland is more than 5 acres in size. This has not been done in any county at this time. One of the reasons may be that designation of property as wetlands can result in reassessment of the property for property tax purposes or can result in the State or local jurisdiction having to pay for the property they designate.
In 1991, a case came before the 81st District Court in Iosco County in which the DEQ and a local resident differed on the interpretation of the statute. The resident won at the trial court level and the State appealed to the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court reviewed the statute and found that the only way the statute could be constitutionally construed was to limit the definition of protected Goemaere-Anderson wetlands to those which "touch or are in actual physical contact" with the watercourse involved or which have been determined to be "essential to the preservation of the natural resources of the state . . . and the department has so notified the owner." This decision was rendered on June 8, 1992, was not appealed by the State and has been in effect in Iosco County ever since. This has not stopped the DEQ from claiming jurisdiction over property which does not meet this definition. The decision is available from the Iosco County Circuit Court, Case No. 91-7917-AR.
The DEQ has proposed broad new rules (Draft 99-003) which basically push all of the costs on to the property owner, leave total discretion to the DEQ to accept or reject any plan (which must be devised by the property owner, without any set requirements and without any compensation to the property owner.) These proposed rules can be obtained from the internet at http://www.deq.state.mi.us/lwm/grt_lakes/wetlands/proposedrules.htm. They should also be available from the DEQ by mail.
The US Army Corps of Engineers is announcing some new rules in which they propose to expand their jurisdiction to parcels as small as a one half-acre. According to the Detroit News, March 6, 2000 the DEQ plans to work with the prosecutors in Macomb and ST. Clair Counties to aggressively prosecute developers and builders over which the DEQ claims jurisdiction.
If you believe that the DEQ should be limited in the power it can exercise over private property, contact Sen. Walter North, 517-373-2413, or e-mail him at SenWNorth@senate.state.mi.us.
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DEQ'S DAM PERMITS
This was an actual letter from and reply to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
STATE OF MICHIGAN Reply to: GRAND RAPIDS DISTRICT OFFICE STATE OFFICE BUILDING 6TH FLOOR 350 OTTAWA NW GRAND RAPIDS MI 49503-2341
JOHN ENGLER, Governor DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY HOLLISTER BUILDING, PO BOX 30473, LANSING MI 48909-7973 INTERNET: http://www.deq.state.mi us RUSSELL J. HARDING, Director December 17, 1997
Mr. Ryan DeVries 2088 Dagget Pierson, MI 49339
Dear Mr. DeVries:
SUBJECT: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023-1 T11N, R10W, Sec. 20, Montcalm County
It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity: Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.
A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department's files shows that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.
The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all unauthorized activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the strewn channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 1998.
Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff. Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.
We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.
David L. Price District Representative Land and Water Management Division
Dear Mr. Price:
Re: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N, R10W, Sec 20; Montcalm County
Your certified letter dated 12/17/97 has been handed to me to respond to. You sent out a great deal of carbon copies to a lot of people, but you neglected to include their addresses. You will, therefore, have to send them a copy of my response.
First of all, Mr. Ryan DeVries is not the legal landowner and/or contractor at 2088 Dagget, Pierson, Michigan - I am the legal owner and a couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood "debris" dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond.
While I did not pay for, nor authorize their dam project, I think they would be highly offended you call their skillful use of natural building materials "debris." I would like to challenge you to attempt to emulate their dam project any dam time and/or any dam place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no dam way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.
As to your dam request the beavers first must fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity, my first dam question to you is: are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers or do you require all dam beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request? If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, please send me completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits.
Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws annotated.
My first concern is - aren't the dam beavers entitled to dam legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said dam representation - so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer.
The Department's dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event causing dam flooding is proof we should leave the dam Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling their dam names. If you want the dam stream "restored" to a dam free-flow condition - contact the dam beavers - but if you are going to arrest them (they obviously did not pay any dam attention to your dam letter-being unable to read English) - be sure you read them their dam Miranda rights first. As for me, I am not going to cause more dam flooding or dam debris jams by interfering with these dam builders. If you want to hurt these dam beavers - be aware I am sending a copy of your dam letter and this response to PETA.
If your dam Department seriously finds all dams of this nature inherently hazardous and truly will not permit their existence in this dam State - I seriously hope you are not selectively enforcing this dam policy - or once again both I and the Spring Pond Beavers will scream prejudice! In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their dam unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam right than I to live and enjoy Spring Pond. So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more dam elevated enforcement action now. Why wait until 1/31/98? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice then and there will be no dam way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them then.
In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention a real environmental quality (health) problem; bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the dam beavers alone. If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your step! (The bears are not careful where they dump!) Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.
Sincerely, Stephen L. Tvedten
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