Indiana 's isolated wetlands at risk with Senate Bill 389

A new bill headed to the Senate floor could impact Hoosiers across the state.

Posted: Jan 28, 2021 11:06 AM
Updated: Jan 28, 2021 12:58 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) -- On Monday afternoon, Senate Bill 389 was passed by the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee and is now headed to the Indiana Senate floor.

This bill would take what some might call "protection" away from isolated wetlands across Indiana and give developers more freedom.

Currently, if people want to build on a wetland, there are a series of steps and regulations they must follow.

If this bill is passed, builders and developers will no longer need a permit from the state to work on a property with isolated wetlands.

Rick Wajda, the CEO of the Indiana Builders Association, said the association supports the bill.

According to Wajda, the bill makes things much easier for builders and developers.

"We've heard a lot of feedback from builders and developers across the state that had had some challenges with working with isolated wetlands. So, they saw this as something that they had an interest in and that's something that we should support as an industry," said Wajda.

Wajda also said if SB 389 is passed, Hoosier homebuyers will save money.

"Builders and developers that build houses for Hoosier home buyers have to pass along those regulatory costs to homeowners. That's no sticks and that's no bricks or any other products that go into the house. That's government regulations from the federal state and local level," explained Wajda.

Those against the bill say it could have negative effects on the environment.

Cliff Chapman, the Executive Director for the Central Indiana Land Trust said SB 389 could decrease access to drinking water for Hoosiers and create flooding.

"Sort of think of it like a bathtub. It's not connected to a river or a stream, your bathtub fills up like a basin and you have a drain just open a little bit and it slowly goes down. You can fill it up fast but it will slowly go down. What SB 389 would do is allow somebody to stick a piece of plywood over the tub and just let all of the water run onto the floor," explained Chapman.

According to Chapman, those types of problems could end up costing Hoosiers more money down the road.

To stop this bill from being approved, the Central Indiana Land Trust has reached out to its members and encouraged them to contact their local leaders.

He said they have never taken those steps before.

"We've never done this in 31 years and this is such a horrible piece of legislation and it would be so bad for everybody in the state that we felt like [we needed to do it] for the first time," said Chapman.

According to Lorrie Heber, Director of the White Violet Center of Eco-justice with the Sisters of Providence in Vigo County, not only are wetlands an important part of the Wabash Valley's water system but also its wildlife. She believes if this bill is passed, it will have severe impacts.

"We're a very migratory route for birds, bees, and other wildlife as it moves from the southern hemisphere of our world to the northern hemisphere. Wetlands serve as a place for them to stay, a source of food, and a source of shelter," said Heber.

District 38 Senator Jon Ford, who will eventually vote on this, was not available to comment.

However, in an email from his office, he confirmed that the Wabashiki Wetland won't be impacted by SB 389.

Wabashiki will not be impacted because it's a federally jurisdictional wetland.

That means it's next to a federally regulated body of water. Which in this case, is the Wabash River.

Wajda also said builders and developers consider the environment while working on a project.

"In most parts of the state, you'll see the subdivisions and housing developments that have been built over the last 20-30 years all have flood control measures in place. Being sensitive to the environment around us is important," said Wajda.

Heber hopes that both sides of the bill can come together to create a middle ground. 

"This isn't an either-or situation. There's always a common ground to come to. We benefit from the environment, we benefit for economic development. Let's sit down and talk about it.

To express your support or opposition to senate bill 3-89, contact your district leader. For a list of Indiana's senators and the districts they cover, visit here.

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