Gard seeks wetland protection
The Indiana Star Press
MUNCIE - Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield,
will introduce legislation to protect Indiana's isolated
wetlands. Meanwhile, a Democratic leader said he was uncertain
"which direction our caucus is going on wetlands."
Gard's bill, still being drafted, reacts to a 5-4 U.S.
Supreme Court ruling on Jan. 9, 2001, that determined
the federal government lacked authority to regulate isolated
wetlands, or those not adjacent to navigable waters of
the United States.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management's attempt
to regulate isolated wetlands is the subject of a lawsuit
pending before the Indiana Supreme Court. IDEM lost that
case, brought by an Allen County developer, at the trial
"The status of isolated wetland protection in Indiana
right now is in limbo," Gard said.
Her bill will be heard in the Republican-controlled Senate
by the Environmental Affairs Committee, which Gard chairs.
The legislation "follows, but goes beyond" the recommendations
of the Environmental Quality Service Council, which studied
wetland protection last year, Gard said.
Gard chaired EQSC's wetlands statutory group, which urged
the Legislature to give IDEM jurisdiction, with certain
restrictions, to regulated isolated wetlands. It also
recommended that state policy should be "no net loss of
wetlands" and "net gain of high quality wetlands."
The senator expects "considerable discussion and debate"
on the legislation.
According to the first issue of Hoosier Wetlands - a newsletter
published by IDEM, other state agencies and their wetland
protection partners - legislators will face "separate
and competing bills - one or more that would strengthen
wetlands protection, and one or more bills that would
weaken wetland protection."
EQSC's chairman, Rep. Jonathan Weinzapfel, D-Evansville,
lost his chairmanship of the House Environmental Affairs
Committee for "backing the wrong horse for speaker," Gard
"We're not sure what direction our caucus is going on
wetlands," said Rep. James Bottorff, D-Jeffersonville,
who now chairs that committee.