Indiana Wetland Bill Signed Into Law
May 5, 2021
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed into law Senate Enrolled Act 389, which dramatically alters Indiana’s regulatory approach to wetlands and other environmental issues. The bill faced strong opposition from environmental organizations, hunting groups, and other wildlife advocates. The full Senate Bill 389 can be found here.
Following SB 389, the state will no longer regulate Class I wetlands and disturbing a Class I wetland no longer requires compensatory mitigation. Class I wetlands generally include low-quality wetlands that minimally support wildlife or aquatic habitat or have been partially disturbed by human activity. Class I wetlands account for 58% of the state’s remaining wetlands and Class II wetlands make up about 41%. SB 389 limits the definition of Class II wetland to an isolated wetland that supports moderate habitat or hydrological function.
Senate Bill 389 stirred heated, and at times emotional, controversy. Environmentalists argued the measure further risks Indiana’s environmental assets, while developers argued the existing regulatory structure created irrational protections on areas not truly wetlands or environmentally necessary. Under previously existing law, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management must issue permits for construction and development in state-regulated wetlands, but that is no longer necessary under the new measure.
Senate Bill 389 is retroactive to January 1. Many lawmakers behind the bill maintain close ties to the building industry. The group includes representatives from the Indiana Builder’s Association, White River Alliance, Indiana Farm Bureau, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.