Harsens Island Resident fights soil-erosion rules he calls 'idiotic'

Leaders look to reduce permit fees

HARSENS ISLAND -- State, county and township officials plan to meet Monday -- and it might just keep Harry A. Mikolowski Sr. out of court.

State Sen. Jud Gilbert, R-Algonac, and representatives from Clay Township and the state Department of Environmental Quality are meeting at the St. Clair County Department of Public Works to look at relaxing fees charged for soil erosion and sedimentation permits.

The DEQ requires the permit any time more than 225 square feet of dirt is moved within 500 feet of a body of water. That includes everything from building a house to making a garden.

The state has the county public works department administer the permits and allows the department to charge fees and fines to recover costs.

Enter Mikolowski, who was fixing the sea wall behind his house on Middle Channel Drive. Mikolowski, 68, moved more than 225 square feet of dirt to ratchet the wall back into place and reinforce it. When county officials found his work, they fined him $500 for not getting a permit, then required him to buy the $181 permit.

Because he's refused to pay the fines or get the permit, he owes about $5,000 in penalties and interest, he said. "It's one of the most idiotic things I've ever seen."

Clay Township Clerk Michael Pellerito agrees.

After learning of Mikolowski's fines, Pellerito called a meeting in April with county, state and federal representatives and the DEQ.

Since then, Gilbert has been trying to find ways to get rid of fees for average residents to do simple landscaping or home maintenance while ensuring water-quality standards are met.

"The state doesn't send along any money when it mandates this program," Gilbert said.

Donald Maronde, county public works managing director, wants to find a happy medium between maintaining water quality and resident frustration.

"We're not interested in generating revenue," he said.

Reprinted from: The Port Huron Times Herald

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