Randy Stewart had an idea for a small business. The 56-year-old Indian River, Michigan man saw potential profit in removing and selling logs that have sunk to the bottom of the many lakes scattered about 20 miles south of the Mackinac Bridge in the state’s Lower Peninsula.
But the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said to be eligible for a permit he would have to provide global positioning satellite coordinates for each log he wanted to remove.”That’s way, way over the top,” Stewart said of the GPS mandate.
‘Needle in a Haystack’
Stewart, who owns Great Lakes Marine Construction, has been trying for five years to make his logging business a reality.Stewart said he could remove as many as 60 logs a week. The logs are usually about 16.5 feet long and sometimes covered in mud at the bottom of the lake.”It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Stewart said. “They are buried, for the most part. You’ve got to find these logs.”He says once the logs are brought up, they can be used by furniture makers, cabinet makers, and musical instrument makers.
‘Overboard on Regulations’
Mary Dettloff, spokeswoman for the MDEQ, said the state is considering changing the requirement of a coordinate of every log.
Michigan has gone overboard on environmental regulations, says Russ Harding, an environmental policy analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a state-based free-market think tank.
Harding, who is the former head of the state’s DEQ from 1995-2003, said people who require environmental permits have to “jump through numerous hoops that have little to do with protecting the environment but much to do with bureaucratic process.”
House Bill 4044, introduced by Rep. Greg MacMaster (R-Kewadin), would require the MDEQ to prepare a cost-benefit analysis on the impact of proposed rules.
“In real life the permit-makers mandate the technology that has to be used,” Harding said. “That stifles innovation. What we do best in this country is we innovate and we adapt. When government steps in and mandates that, you cut that out,” he added.
“The government has to let go of some regulations,” said Stewart. “They can’t always get involved with everything all the time.”
Tom Gantert ([email protected]) is senior capitol correspondent for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan.