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November 23, 2021
LANSING - More than five acres of wetlands and a stream will be restored after the State of Michigan sued an individual who illegally destroyed natural resources in several locations in the Upper Peninsula.
Chippewa County 50th Circuit Court ordered Boyd Rhodes of Sugar Island Township to restore approximately 5.5 acres of wetland and a stream and to pay $150,000 in civil fines in a Nov. 3 ruling.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, on behalf of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) filed the lawsuit against Boyd Rhodes for violations of the Wetlands Protection and Inland Lakes and Streams parts of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA).
In 2014, EGLE - then the Department of Environmental Quality - began sending notices to Rhodes for the violations spanning three separate properties, all owned by Boyd Rhodes, on Sugar Island, located in the St. Mary's River near Sault Ste. Marie. Despite repeated enforcement notices and orders to restore the natural resources, Rhodes continued to develop the properties, at one property proceeding to install utilities and construct a cabin.
After Rhodes' continued refusal to bring the properties into compliance with the law, Nessel filed suit on behalf of EGLE alleging that Rhodes dredged and placed fill material in approximately 5.8 acres of regulated wetlands, rerouted 430 linear feet of stream, created an 11-acre lake, and constructed a pond within 500 feet of an existing lake, all without having sought the necessary permits.
The court ultimately concurred, resulting in the penalties, remediation, and order that Rhodes not violate these statutes in the future.
"We depend on our wetlands and streams to filter our drinking water and provide habitat for our wildlife, and it remains our priority to protect them," Nessel said. "Anyone who thinks they can get away with destroying these resources for their own personal gain should think again."
EGLE's authority to regulate wetlands is based on legislative findings that wetland conservation is a matter of state concern and that wetland loss deprives the people of the State of Michigan of important environmental benefits. Wetlands filter and remove pollutants from the soil before they can drain into waterways, absorb and retain stormwater that might otherwise contribute to flooding, and provide habitat and food for numerous aquatic organisms among other benefits.
"Wetlands are often referred to as the kidneys of the Great Lakes for the work they do protecting water quality," EGLE director Liesl Clark said. "They provide ecological services to Michigan residents, and this ruling affirms that individuals cannot simply destroy them without repercussions."
Permits are required for certain activities such as dredging, filling, and draining wetlands. Similarly, dredging, filling, and other activities are prohibited in inland lakes and streams without a permit from EGLE, to prevent destruction of the water resources of the state.
More information on wetlands and Michigan's rules regarding them are available here.