Foster Swift Agricultural Law Update
On July 2, 2013, Governor Snyder signed key wetland legislation (S.B. 163) into law (Public Act 98 of 2013). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has only given Michigan and one other state the power to regulate wetlands. After EPA audited Michigan’s wetland program, Michigan had to take action in order to continue to regulate its own wetlands. In 2009, a Wetland Advisory Council was created to evaluate Michigan’s wetland program and provide recommendations to the Michigan Legislature. The Council provided its final report on August 15, 2012, which recommended that Michigan retain its control over wetlands and make changes needed to satisfy the EPA.
According to a press release issued by Governor Snyder’s office: “Michigan is best served when people right here in Michigan make decisions regarding our resources,” Governor Snyder said. “We committed early in this administration to keep the state wetlands program. That requires us to make changes to address the federal audit, and ensure we provide clarity and workable, protective solutions for all kinds of Michiganders who interact with wetlands - be they farmers, utilities, local road managers or homeowners,” said Governor Snyder.
The legislation provides that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s powers, duties, functions, and responsibilities resulting from Federal approval of Michigan’s permit program under the Federal Water Pollution Control act would apply only to “navigable waters” and “waters of the United States,” and that determining the need for regulation beyond the scope of federal law would be the responsibility of the Michigan Legislature. Section 30101a. The legislation allows for some animal grazing activities to occur in a wetland without a permit, and for some farming, horticulture, silviculture, lumbering, and ranching activities to occur in a wetland without a permit if it is part of an established ongoing farming, ranching, horticultural, or silvicultural operation. Section 30305. The legislature also details other permit exemptions, including some for drain maintenance. The legislation provides for the development of a special blueberry farming permit. Section 30312.
For more information on the new legislation and its background, please visit: