IN THE 2007-2008 legislative session, two bills were introduced in the Michigan Legislature that would have potentially reduced costs to taxpayers. Senate Bill 1112, sponsored by Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, and House Bill 4901, sponsored by former Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, would have stripped the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality of its authority to grant building permits near wetlands. The oversight of Michigan wetlands would return to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
According to Russ Harding, director of the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network, federal rather than state oversight is the norm in every state but Michigan and New Jersey. Adopting federal oversight, he argues, would put Michigan on even footing with the rest of the nation and allow the state to implement a clearer wetland standard that most investors would better understand.
Harding believes there are much more efficient ways to preserve our natural resources than having the DEQ's second, unpredictable layer of bureaucracy added to the U.S. Army Corps'. Although the DEQ's lack of budget transparency makes it difficult to estimate what Michigan taxpayers would save if the Legislature terminated the DEQ's redundant wetland regime, Harding notes that the economic benefits alone would probably justify the move. Neither business nor the environment is helped by the arbitrary complexity of Michigan's unusual dual wetland regime.