Lawmakers share how aggregate bills would affect UP communities

This is a recording of the TV6 Early News.
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 5:24 PM EDT
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UPPER MICHIGAN, Mich. (WLUC) - Legislation is currently being discussed that would change who approves aggregate mines.

These mines are primarily used in road construction. The legislation would make the State Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) in charge of approving permits.

Right now, local municipalities handle that process. Republican State Representative Dave Prestin says he does not approve of this package.

“As it relates to the Upper Peninsula it is not as much of a problem just due to our population density and how spread out we are,” Prestin said. “I’m in opposition of the bill package just due to the fact that it takes away the local control.”

Democrat Jenn Hill agrees, saying this package is not a good fit for the U.P. Hill says one of her primary concerns with giving the approval to the state is the ability for EGLE to place these pits near wetlands.

“If we are doing sand and gravel, that usually means it is next to a river or next to a lake,” Hill said. “That is where most sand and gravel is found and so there could be a significant impact on wetlands as well. The importance of wetlands is that it is important spawning grounds and that is where ducks are going to have their nests. We don’t want to lose any more wetlands; we have already lost a lot of wetlands.”

One of the arguments made by groups in favor of the package is that more mines will make road construction cheaper by decreasing travel distance.

“It is more so trying to get more road for the dollar spent so I can understand where they are going, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with allowing the state to have the final stand on where these go as opposed to local government’s local units having the say where they go,” Prestin said.

The Marquette County Board which is a part of Hill’s district passed a resolution against the package.

“This is a question very much about what happens at local government levels,” Hill said. “When I hear from them that they are okay with the bill then I’m going to be okay with the bill. This is about us folks in the U.P. making the decisions for the U.P. and then they’ll let me know.”

The bill package is still in the early phases and discussion is taking part in a committee. For the legislation to become law it would need to pass a vote in the committee and the house floor before heading to the Senate for a vote, and ultimately the governor’s desk.