UPDATE 5/25/2023 11:30 p.m.
The clash continues between the Grand Traverse County Road Commission and state departments, with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy now getting into the mix.
The road commission stopped collecting roadkill from roadsides back in April after the DNR threatened to fine road commission employees for illegal dumping. The road commission had been dropping off roadkill in more remote areas on the road right of way.
EGLE sent the road commission a letter imposing further restrictions on where and how the road commission can dispose of roadkill, saying roadkill cannot be collected and transported. The manager of the road commission, Brad Kluczynski, said at Thursday’s meeting says they’ve been advised by attorney’s that they shouldn’t touch roadkill for any reason at all.
“In fact, if it dies in a travel lane, the ideal solution is to close the lane until the deer decays to stop us from being held liable for moving that [animal],” Kluczynski states.
The Grand Traverse County Road Commission has no plans at this time to resume their roadkill service and says the issue may not get resolved until the fall.
“[If somebody] is inconvenienced or cannot deal with the odor of that deer decaying, and we moved it, the civil penalties for this can be $10,000 to $25,000 per event. Just because we moved it out of a travel lane,” Kluczynski explains.
UPDATE 4/27/2023 11 p.m.
After being threatened with fines by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, The Grand Traverse County Road Commission Board met Thursday to discuss how they should move ahead with removing roadkill from roadways.
The road commission says they typically pick the carcasses up and them to a more remote area where they dump them on the road right of way to decompose naturally. However, after the DNR got complaints, they’re now stopping roadkill pick up until further notice.
The DNR told the road commission they can either bury the roadkill in a pit on land owned by the road commission or they could throw them away. At the meeting the board pointed out they don’t have enough land to bury the roadkill and even if they did they’re concerned about possible violations with the Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
Some board members argued the road commission is within it’s legal limits to move roadkill and should resume roadkill pick up, but the Manager Brad Kluczynski and Superintendent Jay Saksweski say they don’t want to put their employees in a position to get ticketed.
The board has decided for the road commission to wait until they’re given approval. The Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners will be speaking about the issue at their next meeting.
4/18/2023 6:45 p.m.
Jay Saksweski, the Grand Traverse County Road Commission Superintendent, said the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is objecting to where they can put roadkill that needs to be disposed of, even threatening fines.
“I’d personally be mad if there was a deer in my front yard. Unfortunately, our hands are tied until the DNR says you can go back to the way you had been doing things without fear of being fined,” said Saksweski.
The road commission said it was a great service that they’ve always been able to provide, until late last year.
“In late 2022, a member of our staff was approached by the DNR and told pretty explicitly that if you continue to do that, we’re going to come after you for littering,” said Saksweski.
The road commission said the DNR is objecting to their common practice of removing dead carcasses, traveling to more remote areas, and dumping them in the road right of way to decompose naturally. Something they are legally allowed to do.
“Our staff’s not like trekking out into state land to create new dump sites. So it may be public road right of way adjacent to state land, or it might be seasonal roads within the state land, but it’s always within the public road right of way,” said Saksweski.
To make matters worse, the road commission says the DNR is now backtracking saying they never said those things.
“So for someone to say that they’ve never said those things or that there was some sort of other understanding. It’s not frustrating. It’s confusing. I just don’t understand it,” said Saksweski.
Regardless, the road commission said its hoping for a resolution, and the sooner, the better.
“We need an immediate solution because, I mean, the weather is getting warmer and there’s not fewer deer on the side of the road. Those numbers are increasing every day. So we need to find some sort of amicable path forward,” said Saksweski.
9&10 News also reached out to the Department of Natural Resources. This is their official statement:
“Nothing in the law prevents road commissions from *removing* animal carcasses from *roadways* under their management. Once removed, those carcasses should be disposed of properly. We have had complaints of carcasses being dumped on state-managed public land in Grand Traverse County. The DNR’s goal is to avoid this kind of illegal activity.”— Ed Golder Public Information Officer Michigan Department of Natural Resources