EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service Recommend Broad Protection for Saugatuck Interdunal Wetlands

dune-in-late-winterTwo federal environmental organizations are recommending a “wide buffer” around “globally imperiled” interdunal wetlands in Saugatuck Township. In separate letters, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), supported by the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), recommended the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to reject Singapore Dunes, LLC’s permit application, in its current form, for the former Denison property, just north of the Kalamazoo River mouth. The permit, designed to build a road through the dunes and wetlands, would likely lead to further development in the form of a residential neighborhood and marina.

In their November 7 letter to the DEQ, the EPA’s Region 5 headquarters in Chicago came out against issuing a dredge-and-fill permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to the Aubrey McClendon-headed group’s application in its current form. The EPA cited Singapore Dunes’s failure to both address indirect environmental impacts of the proposed development and identify all “reasonable foreseeable actions” that could potentially harm the wetlands and stream. The FWS also sent its objections to the EPA, agreeing with its reference to the potential change in hydrology and vegetation that could result from separating the wetlands. The FWS also raised alarm over the threat to local endangered species, such as the Great Lakes Piping Plover and the Pitcher’s thistle.

The EPA recommends rejecting the McClendon group’s development permit and instituting a “wide buffer around the interdunal wetlands” it described as “globally imperiled.” WMEAC supports the EPA and FWS’s recommendation and stands with the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance against the proposed development and road permit application.

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