By Joseph Slacian
Opponents to the Wabash River Trail plan to appeal the Indiana Department of Natural Resources recent approval of a permit to repair a boat ramp in Lagro.
The work was done prior to the WRT receiving a permit from the DNR, and was the cause of the Wabash Plan Commission’s issuance of a stop work order for the trail project.
On April 3, the DNR issued a Certificate of Approval, After-the-Fact Construction in a Floodway. The Plan Commission, with the receipt of the certificate, lifted the stop work order, only if an appeal was not requested within the 18-day time frame.
Sheila Butcher, in an email to trail opponents, said an appeal of the decision was planned.
“We will be requesting Public Hearing from the DNR for the boat ramp in Lagro because no DNR permits had been issued,” she wrote. “They had been applied for but had not been granted. WRT has been given a Certificate of After the Fact with 18 days of public notice we will be appealing it.”
According to the Certificate of Approval, in order to obtain a review, a written petition must be submitted to the Division of Hearings within 18 calendar days of the mailing of the notice.
The petition must contain specific reasons for the appeal and indicate the portion or portions of the permit to which the appeal pertains. If an appeal is filed, the final agency determination will be made by the Natural Resources Commission following a legal proceeding conducted before an administrative law judge.
The permit is valid for 24 months, and if work is not completed by April 3, 2019, it is considered void. A one-time extension of two years may be sought prior to the 2019 deadline.
The permit did contain several special conditions, mostly dealing with what must be done at the site once work is completed, and what can and can’t be done during work, such as not leaving felled trees, brush or other debris in the floodway.
Because the WRT began work without the proper permits, the Wabash County Plan Commission issued a fine of $1,875, or $125 per day during which the stop work order was issued. That fine has been suspended, pending no further violations occur during work on the trail.
The Indiana DNR did not impose a penalty.
“I can’t speak for all state agencies, but the DNR has not issued a fine,” Phil Bloom, DNR director of the Division of Communications, told The Paper of Wabash County.