Former Gov. William Milliken did Michigan a service when he signed this state’s wetlands protections into law 30 years ago. He is still doing right by his home state in insisting those protections should stay in place.
Milliken joined many voices in opposition to a recent proposal by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. She wants to scrap state wetlands oversight — and save $2.1 million — by turning over its management to the federal government.
Granholm is being penny wise but pound foolish. Wetlands are particularly valued in this state because they filter pollutants and improve the health of water that runs into the Great Lakes. They need protection.
Her proposal would turn wetland management over to a federal government that is ill-equipped to oversee as many as 5.5 million acres of this environmental resource.
Developers who need permits to do work in and around wetlands likely would face longer waits than they do now, and they would pay more. State government could save, but Michigan residents would end up paying in other ways.
The state’s wetlands oversight is not perfect. Some groups like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce favor federal oversight because of frustration with the state Department of Environmental Quality. We have heard complaints that state officials are too intrusive or move too slowly when it comes to projects that disturb wetlands in this area, too.
That does not mean Michigan should give up its traditional role, however. It means that state officials need to review existing regulations and, with input from the business community, make sure they are applied fairly. That can happen outside the crucible of the state budget process.
There is an irony here that Granholm, whose Democratic Party usually pushes for tougher environmental rules, is the one pushing to dismantle Michigan’s program. Good thing that a Republican like Milliken is stepping up in its defense.
— THE JACKSON CITIZEN PATRIOT