SB 85 will create a Drainage Task Force to examine the current responsibilities of landowners, state, and local authorities and to examine the balance between state and local authority when it comes to drainage.  It has passed both the Indiana House and Senate and is headed to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, 24% of Indiana’s land was wetland. The original wetlands were drained to make way for towns, roads, and farms. In the 1980s, the DNR estimated that 85% of Indiana’s original wetlands had been drained. If the drainage is stopped and the land is left to its own, it reverts back to wetland.

Over time, society learned that wetlands weren’t just a nuisance; they were essential. Wetlands can hold between one and one and a half million gallons of water per acre. While a wetland holds that water, it is soaking into the ground and recharging the aquifer, and it is slowing the rate at which stormwater runs downstream, thus reducing flooding. Wetlands also provide essential habitat for many species.

Our laws need to strike a balance between the need for agricultural drainage and the need for wetlands. At the statewide level, one of the questions we face is how much of the land can we drain and still have enough wetland?

We need the stormwater storage wetlands provide more than ever. Climate data compiled at Purdue University show that Indiana is receiving an average of 5.6 inches more precipitation per year now than it did in the 1890s.

HEC recommends that the new Drainage Task Force take the work of the Indiana Wetlands Task Force into consideration. SB 85 has passed both the Senate and the House.

SB 85 Senate Vote Sheet (1/20/22)
SB 85 House Vote Sheet (2/14/22)