INDIANAPOLIS, IN (WISH) — The legislation currently on the governor’s desk removes restrictions for 90% of Indiana wetlands and opens the doors to increased development, according to Indiana environmental groups.
And one of the largest private wetlands in Marion County is under the canopy of trees at Crown Hill Cemetery. Indra Frank of the Hoosier Environmental Council says wetlands are really giant filters that hold rain water and allow the water to soak into the ground, which helps eliminate flooding while replenishing ground water supplies.
“They filter out sediment and pollution and that reduces the cost of our drinking water treatment plants and they host wildlife,” Frank said.
John Ketzenberger of The Nature Conservancy says Indiana lawmakers have removed almost all protection of state wetlands.
“Despite opposition from prominent Republicans, the senate Republicans rammed the bill through within a week. They didn’t even bother to hide their disdain for wetlands or the thoughtful or meaningful process,” Ketzenberger said.
The state and the federal government estimate there are around 900,000 acres of wetlands in Indiana. This bill does not impact federal wetlands. Most wetlands are discovered when someone wants to develop the land. The bill, as passed by lawmakers, removes many of the permits needed to drain private wetlands for development or for agriculture. Environmental groups say allowing this to happen will increase flooding, erosion and eventually drive up the cost for drinking water as cities build complex tunnels for storm water runoff.
“Wetlands act as sponges. They store and filter water. Every gallon of water captured by a wetland is one less gallon we have to pay to manage,” Matt Meersman of the St. Joe River Basin Commission said.
Indiana environmental groups here estimate there are 500,000 thousand acres of wetlands in Indiana with thousands more unaccounted for private land.