Indiana governor signs wetland repeal bill, despite pushback

A bill removing some protections from Indiana’s already diminished wetlands was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb Thursday despite widespread criticism that it could damage waterways, wildlife and vegetation.

Posted: Apr 30, 2021 11:30 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A bill removing some protections from Indiana’s already diminished wetlands was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb Thursday despite widespread criticism that it could damage waterways, wildlife and vegetation.

The wetlands measure passed out of the Legislature April 14 and has sparked bipartisan opposition within the Republican-dominated Legislature. Retroactive as of Jan. 1, it eliminates a 2003 law that requires the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to issue permits for construction and development in state-regulated wetlands and end enforcement proceedings against landowners accused of violating current law.

Holcomb’s signature followed his own reservations earlier in the Legislative session, when he said that the wetlands repeal was a cause for “concern." He further allowed staff at the natural resources and environmental management departments to oppose the bill in hearings in January, where state regulatory officials argued that the wetlands must be protected because they purify water, provide habitat for wildlife and reduce flood risks.

Months-long pushback against the bill prompted lawmakers to scale back the intended repeal earlier this month, reducing wetland permitting regulations for croplands and temporary streams, rather than for all wetlands.

Holcomb said he "appreciated" those changes to the bill and cited the continued protections as “critical” to his decision to sign the bill Thursday.

“Even still, I felt compelled to carefully and deliberately weigh the bill’s intent to protect property rights against its new limitations on land protections,” Holcomb said in a statement Thursday. “Under this new regulatory scheme, I believe Hoosier farmers and landowners will continue to be careful stewards of the land.”

All Democratic members of the General Assembly, as well as a member of the Senate Republican Caucus, urged the Republican governor to veto the bill last week, citing “long term consequences” and a need for “more in-depth study than what was accomplished in limited committee times during a legislative session in a pandemic.”

In a separate letter delivered to Holcomb's office Monday, more than 100 organizations called on the governor to veto the bill they claimed will “cost the state dearly,” when accounting for increased flooding and erosion expenses, loss of groundwater recharge, fewer tourism opportunities and loss of diverse wildlife "that makes Indiana special."

“This bill opens the door to irrevocable impacts on our rich natural history and puts the wellbeing of millions of Hoosiers at risk, now and well into the future,” the letter said. “Indiana needs a thorough, inclusive, and deliberative approach to changing the law on such a vital natural resource.”

Republican bill author Sen. Chris Garten and other sponsors argued throughout the Legislative session that vague language in the current state law, over-enforcement by state regulators and high mitigation fees that drive up housing costs prompted the drafting. They contend removal of state protections would help developers and grow the housing market.

The proposal comes as President Joe Biden’s administration reviews the previous administration’s rules such as the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which narrowed the definition of waterways that fall under federal protection.

___

Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

West Lafayette
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 34°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
35° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 29°
Rensselaer
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 27°
Fowler
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 34°
Williamsport
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 30°
Crawfordsville
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 31°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 31°
Delphi
Partly Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 33°
Monticello
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 33°
Logansport
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 28°
A sunny and mild day is expected! Changes arrive through the weekend
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1112735

Reported Deaths: 17652
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1450832237
Lake721711247
Allen66684881
Hamilton50838487
St. Joseph49493645
Elkhart40079546
Vanderburgh34553496
Tippecanoe30654274
Johnson27559465
Hendricks26181383
Porter25556386
Madison21002452
Clark20146278
Vigo18966309
LaPorte17115261
Delaware16666300
Howard16666313
Monroe16556220
Kosciusko14216167
Hancock13061185
Bartholomew12894190
Warrick12152190
Wayne12036268
Floyd11968226
Grant11901242
Morgan10360192
Boone9815122
Noble9234122
Henry9142167
Marshall9062147
Dearborn8923100
Dubois8815139
Shelby8210129
Cass8134127
Lawrence8018185
DeKalb7761108
Jackson764093
Huntington7601113
Gibson7074118
Montgomery7052123
Harrison6923100
Knox6896115
Steuben665889
Miami6563111
Whitley655360
Putnam641584
Clinton624579
Wabash6182111
Jasper610892
Jefferson5796104
Ripley555893
Adams540581
Daviess5062117
Scott488280
Wells4814104
White475669
Greene4680100
Clay462862
Decatur4597110
Jennings448867
Fayette448396
LaGrange425990
Posey407544
Randolph3908107
Washington389856
Fountain373464
Fulton362474
Spencer360747
Starke353574
Owen351277
Sullivan347554
Orange329172
Jay328850
Rush306832
Carroll294239
Franklin290844
Perry288553
Vermillion282758
Tipton250066
Parke249630
Pike247244
Blackford221244
Pulaski208559
Newton181752
Brown176150
Crawford168829
Benton166517
Martin151820
Switzerland147212
Warren135316
Union121016
Ohio92113
Unassigned0592

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events