FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Indiana Senate voted Monday to end all state regulation of Indiana’s isolated wetlands. Those in support of Senate Bill 389 say it lifts regulations that are hobbling some farmers and home builders who get get fined for the isolated wetlands on their property. These proponents say the Indiana Department of Environmental Management has done an inconsistent job overseeing the state’s wetlands.
Isolated wetlands are those that aren’t under federal protection. Other than simply deregulate, the new bill also allows the unlimited draining of the isolated wetlands, which are connected to the region’s lakes, rivers and streams. The Little Rivers Wetland Project and ACRES Land Trust say this has bad implications. They say if the bill becomes law, up to 80% of the state’s remaining wetlands would get drained.
“By removing protection from these isolated wetlands, we run the risk of not having clean waters in our rivers and in our lakes that we like to recreate in and some of these we get our drinking water from,” said Betsy Yankowiak, Little River Wetlands Project’s director of preserves and programs.
“Basically the wetlands act as a sponge and they act as a filter for the water that we end up drinking,” said ACRES Land Trust Executive Director Jason Kissel.
Bad drinking water isn’t the only bad possibility, but flooding too.
“There’s a direct connection between these quiet habitats and water quality and protecting with flooding,” continued Yankowiak.
“If a wetland is drained, that water still has to go somewhere and so that water is going to be diverted onto a neighbor’s property or it’s going to increase flooding downstream and that water is not going to disappear, it simply goes somewhere else,” Kissel further explained.
Senate Bill 389 passed 29-19 votes in the senate. The bill now moves to the House for the next round of voting.