By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – State Sen. Blake Doriot sought to clarify issues with a major wetlands bill in the Indiana General Assembly on Friday, Feb. 26.
Doriot, a Republican who represents District 12, was one of five lawmakers who participated in a Third House legislative update Friday, Feb. 26, that was hosted online by the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce.
Senate Bill 389 would repeal the law requiring a permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for wetland activity in state-regulated wetlands.
The bill has upset environmentalists who worry about the potential lack of control of some wetlands.
The State Senate passed the bill by a 20-19 vote and it now will be considered by the House. Doriot and two other area senators – Stacey Donato and Ryan Mishler – supported the bill.
Doriot, a former Elkhart County surveyor, said there is a lot of misinformation about the bill.
“I really want to get this straight because my duck hunting buddies are angry with me,” Doriot said. “We are not touching the wetlands like you see around Wawasee and the lakes and along streams. Those are off-limits, federally.”
Doriot said the change would only involve isolated wetlands rather than ones connected to waterways and lakes.
According to the Hoosier Environmental Council, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management testified that Indiana has already lost 85% of its original wetlands and that 80-90 percent of the remaining wetlands are state wetlands and would be in jeopardy if the bill passes.
The other 10 – 20% of Indiana’s remaining wetlands are federally protected, the council said on its website.
The current policy is proving expensive for some landowners, Doriot said.
“If you are a farmer and you have an acre with a broke tile in it and it turned into a wetland, you go to fix that tile, IDEM comes in and says you’ve done this and now you must mitigate this four acres to one acre with a cost of up to $40,000 an acre,” Doriot said.
“Some of these people are looking at $160,000 for an isolated wetland and IDEM is not even supposed to be enforcing those,” he said. “We need to have some common sense.”