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CCFB News» May 2024

IFB continues working against Wetlands and Small Streams Protection Act

05/30/2024 @ 4:01 pm | By Hannah Spangler


Illinois Farm Bureau continues to communicate its opposition to the proposed “Wetlands and Small Streams Protection Act.”


The legislation, proposed by state Sen. Laura Ellman, D-Naperville, and state Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, requires the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish a state-level permitting program to regulate wetlands and small streams.


The reach of the proposed legislation concerns IFB as it could lead to essentially every stream and wetland in Illinois being regulated, regardless of size.


“A general permit is required if dredged or fill material is discharged into a greater than zero linear feet stream or zero acres of wetland,” said Sanjay Sofat, IFB director of environmental policy. “Essentially, everything that is out there needs a general permit.”


Sofat explained the proposed legislation allows DNR to charge a permit fee ranging from $260-$5,000. The legislation also allows DNR to charge an undisclosed amount in fees for wetland delineation.


According to Sofat, an additional area of concern is once a permit is obtained, this legislation allows any person, including corporations, to appeal the DNR permit.


“This also gives the Attorney General’s office authority to sue,” he told RFD Radio Network. “They can sue on their own motion or DNR could request them to do so.”


Currently, wetlands in Illinois are regulated by a myriad of governmental agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Illinois EPA, Illinois DNR and some counties.


IFB’s concerns remain given the current complexity and ongoing movement of federal wetland regulations in Illinois. Adding another regulatory scheme will create yet another layer of uncertainty for Illinois farmers.


Chris Davis, IFB director of state legislation, reiterated IFB’s strong opposition to this legislation.  “This legislation will regulate so many activities on personal property,” he said. “It’ll just have so many implications for property owners.”


Davis said the proposed legislation will potentially regulate the following activities:

•            Tile installation

•            Any land use change

•            Taking land that’s not currently in production use and putting it into production use

•            Taking land out of production use

•            Installation of alternative energy projects

•            Construction of a barn


“In a nutshell, if your neighbor doesn’t like the fact that you’re tilling a garden in your backyard, they can sue you,” said Davis.


Currently, both bills have passed out of their respective committees. However, Davis said, “That action was taken with strong commitments from committee members and the sponsors of the legislation, that the legislation will be held on second reading for negotiations for potential amendments.


“There is going to be legislative pressure on this issue for the next couple of years,” he added.


Additional meetings are expected as the spring legislative sessions ends.


IFB has testified in opposition to the legislation, is meeting regularly with other stakeholders and continues to meet with sponsors of the bill to express concerns at a high level.


“Know that this is at the top of our priority list,” said Davis. “We’re working hard to keep things in check, and we are communicating how bad and burdensome legislation like this can be on our membership.”

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