Nobody grows more blueberries in the U.S. than Michigan. In the past, many growers were exempt from wetland regulations. But the federal Environmental Protection Agency is making Michigan tighten its wetland regulations and blueberry production is a part of that.
The state will have to prove to the EPA that the proposed changes will follow federal laws, including the Clean Water Act.
Dan Wyant is director of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality.
“We will argue, and I think succeed in the argument, that with blueberry production you will still maintain values and functions of a wetland because you’re not draining the wetland. You’re not filling the wetland,” Wyant said.
Wetlands can be fertile places to grow blueberry plants.
But some environmentalists worry the changes won’t give the public enough chances to weigh in on individual blueberry growing operations. That’s because if a grower follows the parameters outlined in the proposed in DEQ’s General Permit category for Blueberry Farming, the grower will not need to go through a lengthier process that includes a public hearing.
“What we’re creating is a win-win,” Wyant said. “An opportunity to grow the blueberry industry to maintain functions and values of a wetland and to see what the governor likes to talk about, this balance between economic growth and environmental stewardship in the State of Michigan.”
People have until Wednesday, Feb. 12 to give the state feedback on the proposed changes. Information about how to do that is posted on the DEQ's calendar on page 5.