State officials have finalized a new permit for landowners after lawmakers removed protections from more than half of the state’s remaining wetlands.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management issued the Isolated Wetland General Permit for Field Tile Maintenance in Class II State Regulated Wetlands, a five-year permit that allows landowners to discharge dredged or fill material associated with drainage tiles next to Class II state regulated wetlands.
The new permit allows landowners to perform modifications on Class II wetlands and allows people affected by the modification to appeal the permit issuance to the Office of Environmental Adjudication and to ask for a stay pending the outcome of the appeal.
Earlier this year, the Indiana Legislature voted to strip or weaken protections for a vast majority of the state’s 800,000 acres of wetlands protected under the state’s Isolated Wetlands Law.
Under the 2003 law, state wetlands were categorized into three wetland classes.
Class I was defined as having “minimum” wildlife or hydrologic function. Class III is defined as having “more than minimal” wildlife or hydrologic function. Class II is vaguely defined as being an isolated wetland “that is not a Class I or Class III wetland.”
Lawmakers, led by state senator members of the Indiana Builders Association, voted to remove state protections for all 425,000 of the state’s Class I wetlands and weaken protections for the 250,000 Class II wetlands. Class III wetland protections were left in place.
Sen. Chris Garten, one of the main authors of the bill, said during the legislative process that the law would bring the state into line with a Trump rule that narrowed which waters fell under federal protection, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.
The Biden administration has said it would update the rule after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found it led to “significant environmental degradation.”
It’s unclear how much of the rule the Biden administration would change, but the update could put some of the state’s wetlands under federal protection.