the wetlands, help the lake, experts say
the ducks. Wetlands serve more pressing needs in Macomb
County than providing a stop-over for the millions of
migrating ducks that utilize nature's cover.
But if developers have their way, wetlands will be lost
forever, experts say.
"Don't talk about the ducks," warned Eugene Jaworski,
a professor at Eastern Michigan University. "You have
to communicate to developers what a wetland does."
Wetlands are part of the drainage system of an area. Storm
water runoff drains into wetlands, where it is filtered,
stored and slowly released into waterways and lakes.
"You've got to protect wetlands," Jaworski said, "if you
want to protect Lake St. Clair."
Wetlands provide a number of functions for Macomb County
"at no charge."
"You know what the problem is?" Jaworski told the Macomb
County Water Quality Board last week. "I see catch basins
in wetland areas. Catch basins should not be in wetland
areas. It's supposed to be wet."
Jaworski offered a simple solution to fast-disappearing
"All you have to do is preserve it," said Jaworski, an
environmental wetland consultant since 1975 and presently
employed by J&L; Consulting Services of Ypsilanti. "Development
is taking place in northern Macomb County. You've got
something nice to preserve. Wetlands are a protective
Don and Lorraine Moore of Harrison Township have been
fighting to preserve wetlands near their home for a decade.
"American House wanted to put assisted living in the back,
but there's 21 acres of wetlands back there," Lorraine
Moore said. "We've been fighting this development for
eight years. We did a lot of studying and have been in
contact with (the Department of Environmental Quality)
and Army Corps of Engineers. The project has been turned
down twice, but they keep coming back."
Moore's home is 1,000 feet from the wetlands near Lake
"The developers want to make us happy, but we said we
have nothing to say about it," Lorraine said. "We can't
say, 'You can't build here,' but we were right in guessing
we had legal rights the DEQ and Army Corps agreed with
us on. There's a whole strip of wetlands and our area
is designated as wetlands. We want to preserve the health
of the community."
"People see vacant property and they think they can build
on it," Don Moore said. "It's not a personal thing. You've
got a good 40 acres of wetlands here. We all know we like
to use the lake. You have to take the time to educate
yourself about wetlands. When you realize what all those
parcels of wetlands do, maybe you wouldn't want to develop
In response to dwindling acres of wetlands, the Macomb
County Water Quality Board is beginning work on a countywide
"We have to tread lightly before we present anything,"
said Doug Martz, director of the Water Quality Board.
"But we all know we need one."
For starters, to combat overzealous developers, wetland
experts suggest introducing aerial maps from local communities
to create one Macomb County wetland map. The map could
then be used as evidence in cases where a developer questions
whether a piece of property is in fact a wetland.
"You've got to go out into the field and flag wetland
sites," Jaworski said. "In order to map your wetlands
you have to go on someone's property. ... When development
is proposed, you have your own wetland assessor, and now
you can compare their (wetland assessment) to ours."
Dr. Carl Freeman said when a wetland ordinance is established
local law enforcement will be needed.
"The DEQ is absolutely (neglect) in their duties," Dr.
Freeman said. "They let (developers) chop up wetlands.
It is essential you have verification. (And) it needs
to be backed up with clout."
Jessica Pitelka, executive director of the Clinton River
Watershed Council, told the Water Quality Board that 25
percent of Macomb County was made up of wetlands in the
1800s. But in 1996, only 7 percent of Macomb County consisted
"Seventy-four percent of wetlands are gone," Pitelka said.
"There's only 20,181 acres left in Macomb County."
Harrison Township resident Hugh Horton said there is a
reason for disappearing wetlands.
"Some township officials looking the other way," Horton
said. "Some engineers see a signature seal and will not
ask one question. Every illegal thing done is being done
by engineers to manipulate the law."
Horton said a disputed floodway on the southwest part
of the upscale subdivision along the Clinton River halted
construction on Brigantine Estates while proper permits
could be obtained.
"A road is built across the floodway before anyone knew
it, but developers go as fast as they can, knowing local
officials will not tell them to back up," Horton said.
"Had they been honest they would have got a permit and
done it right. But now there's a road over the floodway."
The 141-unit condominium development is located on a 73-acre
site south of Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Lots
are currently being sold.
Brigantine subdivision developer David White of Land Development
Services of Michigan did not return calls seeking comment.
Wetland watchdog Lon Ullmann of Troy said education is
the key to stopping the destruction of wetlands in Macomb
"Don't wait until you're like Troy," Ullmann said. "But
until the public is educated on wetlands, communities
in Macomb County will turn into a Troy."
On hand to offer the Water Quality Board advice was permit
writer Lev Woods of West Bloomfield Township, a community
with a wetlands ordinance. Woods was instrumental in upholding
the ordinance as a member of the local Wetlands Review
What is needed if Macomb County is to establish its own
wetlands ordinance? Woods offered the following suggestions:
a model wetlands ordinance.
a citizens review board.
an experienced consultant.
no fear of lawsuits.
ready to spend money.
West Bloomfield Township was the second community in
the state to establish a wetlands ordinance in 1977
(Oakland Township was first in 1976).
"Wetlands is just not about ducks," Jaworski said. "(But)
to propose development in a filled wetland is like suggesting
building a roadway across a wetland. A good rule is
to first think about no feasible and prudent alternatives."