By Nancy Allen
The Lake Improvement Association invited Ohio Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, to talk with the group on a wetlands development amendment recently added to the House version of the budget bill.
LIA members voiced concern over the amendment during their meeting Saturday, which they say could result in more wetlands being lost in the Grand Lake watershed.
Wetlands act to filter out sediment and attached nutrients before they get into creeks, streams and lakes. Excess sediment and nutrients that run off from farm fields, lawns, constructions sites and other are a problem in the Grand Lake Watershed, which would be worsened if more wetlands are lost, LIA members have said. Ohio has lost roughly 90 percent of its original wetlands, Ohio Environmental Council statistics indicate.
LIA member Tom Rampe said he learned of the amendment last week and encouraged the group to contact Faber with their concerns.
Faber this morning said the wetlands amendment was added to the House's version of the budget bill by subcommittee chairman Tony Core, R-Rushsylvania, but Faber said he voted against the budget bill. "It is a very valid concern and I share their concerns in protecting wetlands to protect the water quality of this lake," Faber said this morning. "But this is a very complicated issue and there is some misinformation out there. If anyone got the impression you can take a bulldozer and fill in a wetland, that is an incorrect perception."
Faber said he was told the wetlands amendment would in some cases allow developers to construct mitigated wetlands outside the subwatershed where wetlands were destroyed, if there was no practical location in the same subwatershed to rebuild them. But, Faber said, the language in the amendment would still give the Ohio EPA discretion to mandate mitigation within the subwatershed and likely would not result in increased wetland destruction around the lake.
Wetland mitigation is a process by which new wetlands must be constructed to replace those that are destroyed by development. In many cases, existing EPA mitigation requirements state that at least two to three acres of wetlands must be created to replace every one acre of wetlands destroyed.
"The concept was to adopt the federal U.S. of Army Corps standards when applicable, but give the EPA discretion to deviate on a case by case basis," he said. "For most of the issues around Grand Lake, we are dealing with class 2 or class 3 wetlands. If it is a middle to high class 2 wetland, it is my feeling that you wouldn't be able to mitigate outside the subwatershed, because the EPA likely would not allow it."
The language in the amendment in most cases adopted existing federal standards, Faber said, and was a product of negotiations that occurred between the EPA and the regulated community, such as property owners and developers, with the intent to add predictability, stability and timeliness to the EPA permit process.
Faber said he intends to speak with LIA members about the issue.