October 23, 2014

Proposed soil erosion ordinance dead

6/19/13

ARENAC COUNTY — The county’s proposed soil erosion ordinance failed to find support at the Arenac County Board of Commissioners meeting June 18, dying without even a vote.

Commissioner Mike Snyder brought forth a motion to adopt the ordinance, but no one seconded, so it never came up for a vote. Commissioner Virginia Zygiel was absent from the meeting.

The proposed ordinance would have given the county clearer enforcement procedures under part 91 of the 1994 Michigan Natural Resources and Environment Protection Act, which states that counties are responsible for administering and enforcing the state’s law on sedimentation control.

The Department of Environmental Quality reported to the county that it has failed to properly enforce the law under the existing resolution, as Enforcement Officer Dale Zygiel has few options between writing a letter to someone and sending the case to Prosecutor Curt Broughton, who has been wary of prosecution with such limited enforcement options.

Chairman Bob Luce said with the ordinance dead, the commissioners would need to work on tweaking the existing resolution to have the necessary enforcement aspects the state wants to see.

“We have to tweak our resolution so that we can ably enforce it, and that seems to be the main sticking point,” Luce said. “Apparently Dale has never had adequate enforcement procedures for the prosecutor to prosecute. So we have to tweak that, and we will.”

DEQ Environmental Quality Analyst Matt Siler said the county still needs to take steps to properly enforce part 91. With the ordinance failed, he said his next step would be to send them a second violation notice requesting that the board, enforcing agency and prosecutor work together to develop a functioning enforcement procedure for the county.

He said that while an ordinance would have given the county more enforcement options, they can enforce part 91 under a resolution, as long as they follow the law as written. This does not provide for any additional enforcement options, but Siler said it can still work.

“Whether they use an ordinance to enforce part 91, or enforce it as written under a resolution, we are just concerned with making sure they properly enforce part 91,” Siler said. “Whether it’s done under an ordinance or resolution doesn’t really matter to me.”

“There’s no reason they can’t enforce part 91 under a resolution, but they really were trying to ensure that they had addressed the enforcement option sufficiently,” he added. “That’s why they had begun working on an ordinance.”

Siler said the ordinance would not have been more restrictive than the state law, nor would it have changed the permitting process. He believes the additional enforcement options the county would have had under the ordinance would likely have been better than the ones available under the law as written.

Luce thinks the county should be able to bring its resolution up to the DEQ’s requirements in a relatively speedy fashion. Since the ordinance had gone over to Siler and the DEQ for review, he said the language had been approved in it, and he believed the commissioners may be able to pull at least some of the enforcement text from that.

“I think it will be a relatively short order to get it hashed out,” Luce said. “It’s not like we have to reinvent the wheel. We already have language that has been acceptable to Siler, so hopefully we can use that, or parts thereof, to satisfy him.”

The commissioners originally proposed the soil erosion ordinance in March, but quickly faced opposition by the Arenac County Soil Conservation District and members of the public, who felt the existing resolution was fine and did not want to see an ordinance that went further than state law. The commissioners held two public hearings on the issue, where they heard largely negative reactions to the proposal.

While Siler said the ordinance was not more restrictive than the state law, he believes there was a misunderstanding among county residents over just what the ordinance would have done, and that it could have been better outlined to the public.

Though the ordinance could technically be brought up again, County Clerk Rick Rockwell said he felt the ordinance was a “dead duck” after it failed to get any support since even if Zygiel had been there, the two of them would be unable to override the other three commissioners anyway.

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