INDIANAPOLIS— Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has signed a bill into law that will reduce the number of wetlands eligible to receive the state’s highest ranking and most amount of protection.
Critics say the new law will lead to the loss of more wetlands in the state. Supporters of the law say previous protections for wetlands drove up home prices.
Developers will be able to build on Class II wetlands if they agree to build replacement wetlands at a different site and the replacements would have to exceed the size of the original spot.
Wetlands are highly valued by experts and advocacy groups for their ability to absorb nutrients within their soil, including fertilizer that can spill over from neighboring farmland.
It lowers the number of wetlands that are eligible to receive full protection as Class III — the group that receives the most protections — and can be moved to Class II for development purposes.
Those include Class III, which receives full protection. Wetlands included in Class II receive less protection while Class I wetlands receive no form of protection.
“The way HEA 1383 was rushed to the Governor’s desk in this short session is objectionable in itself, but even more concerning is that so many Hoosiers whose environment will be negatively impacted were not given a meaningful opportunity to even learn this was happening — let alone speak out. We could have fast-tracked childcare access or any other dire issue facing our state. The fact that we fast-tracked this particular bill should make folks take pause,” said Democrat Senator J.D. Ford of Indianapolis.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce sides with the Governor on this bill.
“We thought it struck the appropriate balance between protecting wetlands, but also encouraging economic growth and future prosperity for Indiana,” said Vanessa Green Sinders, Indiana Chamber President and CEO.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year left it up to states to decide the extent of wetlands protection.
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