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Humbugged

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The battle over the fate of Humbug Marsh continues. Protesters held a demonstration Saturday to draw attention to the fact that developers are moving ahead with plans to build homes on the last undeveloped stretch of the Detroit River. The project has yet to receive the necessary permits, but there is apparently nothing illegal about the preparatory work being done by the company Made in Detroit.

"We are obeying the law and we are within our rights," said Made in Detroit CEO Bill Merriweather. "The Army Corps of Engineers and the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) have both inspected what we are doing."

The project received a setback when the state Department of Environmental Quality denied a request from developers to build on a conservation easement controlled by the state to protect crucial wildlife habitat. Made in Detroit has submitted a new plan that does not include the easement.

The protesters were complaining that the easement should have been clearly marked so that the work taking place would not harm it.

"We say they are doing something wrong," said area resident Pat Hartig. "The easement could be violated and nobody would know, because it's never been marked off. We've asked the state Attorney General's Office to enforce the document. We're waiting to see if they do."

Environmentalists don't want to see the project -- 340 upscale homes and a golf course -- built at all. They would prefer to see either the state or federal government purchase the property so that the area, which includes a 200-year-old oak savanna, can be preserved in its natural state as a wildlife and ecological refuge.

The developers, however, have said they are not interested in selling.

"We have to keep hammering home the point that these are the last coastal wetlands on the Detroit River," said Hartig. "This is the last one. It's not like there's another little patch of something they can go devour."

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