INDIANAPOLIS─State Senator Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington) made the following comments on Senate Bill (SB) 389, otherwise known as the Anti-Wetlands Bill, today in the Senate. The bill removes important regulations protecting Indiana’s wetlands.

“The Indiana Isolated Wetlands Law was carefully crafted in 2003 to preserve the state’s remaining wetlands that aren’t federally protected. The Wetlands Law in its current form does not stop reconstruction of drains. It just has a permit process to ensure that wetlands are preserved to the extent possible and replaced when they can’t be preserved. Wetlands filter water, alleviate flooding and provide an important ecological role in habitat for wildlife. The governor’s own agency came to testify in opposition to SB 389.

“Before we began converting wetlands, there were over 5.6 million acres of wetlands in the state. By the late 1980’s, over 4.7 million acres of wetlands had been lost─wetlands now cover less than 4% of Indiana and we have lost over 80% of our state’s wetlands. Indiana ranks 39th for overall water and air quality and these wetlands are natural water sanitation and drainage tools that we are haphazardly un-regulating for destruction. This law has worked for the last 18 years, helping to significantly reduce the effects of some of the largest floods our state has ever seen. And as our climate continues to change, extreme weather events are becoming more and more common.

“In Bloomington, we had a massive flood in February of 2019 that shut down our community and stopped businesses from opening their doors. In June of 2008 our state saw one of the most intense floods in state history. In Columbus alone, estimated damages topped half-a-billion dollars. Billion. With a B.

“This bill went from threatening 100% of our remaining wetlands to 98% of our wetlands. The new iteration of this bill is coming to us after the House Environmental Affairs Committee passed a compromise that all stakeholders could have lived with. That version was supported by both the Farm Bureau and the State Chamber of Commerce. The version that came out of committee had broad support, that is not what we are voting on today.

“The version in front of us today barely passed out of the House and had bipartisan opposition. Supporters of this version are clinging to the myth that the Class 1 wetlands have no value. They have significant hydrologic functions including storing storm water which reduces flooding and erosion, recharging groundwater, and purifying water.

“The governor’s own agency opposes this bill, environmental and hunting groups oppose this bill and public health experts oppose this bill. I’ll be joining them in opposing this bill.”

The Senate concurred on SB 389 today with a vote of 31-19. The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk where he can decide to sign the bill into law or veto it.