Wetland advocates have been hearing a lot about North Carolina’s 2023 complete repeal of state protection for wetlands recently. 

We heard about it from the Indiana Builders Association during the January 18, 2024, House Environmental Affairs Committee hearing on HB 1383, a bill that will further reduce wetland protection in Indiana.  We heard about it in the summer and fall of 2023 when we spoke with Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) about their work with the Indiana Builders to draft “compromise” legislation.  And we heard about it when individuals representing wetland advocates had a direct meeting with the Builders to offer an alternate path for simplifying wetland permitting and addressing some of the builders’ concerns. 

So, when we heard on the floor of the House during full session on January 23, that the IDEM Commissioner referenced HB 1383 and said, “this is IDEM’s bill”, the Hoosier Environmental Council takes it with a grain of salt. 

WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON            

While it is true that IDEM has agreed to this bill, it must be taken in the context of the threat of a full repeal. The Indiana Builders Association has an outsized influence on the Indiana General Assembly (IGA).  The threat of a full repeal is not idle talk.  But let’s be clear, HB 1383 is only a compromise in that it further compromises Indiana’s wetlands.  At a time when water concerns are reaching new highs related to the Boone County LEAP district and the Governor’s ordered comprehensive study of Indiana’s water supply, the General Assembly should not be threatening one of our most valuable and cost-effective water resources, Indiana wetlands.  

In an unusual move, HB 1383 (a House bill) has been swiftly moved to the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee for a hearing on January 31, whereas most bills move to the other chamber only after the midpoint of the legislative session. HEC objects to section 1 of HB 1383. This section would shift some Class III wetlands down to Class II, which reduces their protection. 

TAKE ACTION

HEC urges all Hoosiers who care about wetlands to call your state senator and ask them to oppose HB 1383 and to support SB 246 which provides an individual tax credit for Hoosiers who choose to protect wetlands on their property.

Find your state legislators here. Phone calls are most effective if you are able. Please also send your state legislators a message with our form and tell them to vote “NO” on HB 1383 and “YES” on SB 246.

Stay up to date with environmental legislation in Indiana like these bills on our Bill Watch 2024 page.

WETLANDS, NOT WAREHOUSES

One example of the impact of unprotected wetlands is unfolding alongside the legislation in the statehouse. Developer Gershman Partners is applying for an Isolated Wetland Permit to impact a Class III wetland in southern Indianapolis along I-65 South and County Line Road. Class III wetlands are the highest-quality wetlands in Indiana. This wetland is part of a greater wetland ecosystem – about 45 acres – that will be developed into speculative warehouses.

Residents have enjoyed the scenery of the wetlands and open space, and the wildlife they support, including sandhill cranes, bald eagles, and owls.

HEC submitted a sign-on letter with over 2,300 Hoosier signatures asking IDEM to block the permit or hold a public meeting to allow more input. 

As of 1/26/2024, we are still awaiting a decision from IDEM.

Read more about this proposal in our blog.