October 14, 2013 meeting notes

October 14, 2013 | 1:00 – 4:00 P.M.
Michigan Chamber of Commerce Board Room
600 S. Walnut St Lansing, MI

Members or Alternates Attending
Gary Dawson, Consumers Energy; Pat Staskiewicz, American Water Works Association (AWWA); Molly Robinson, AWWA; Dave Hamilton, The Nature Conservancy; James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council; Charles Scott, Michigan Golf Course Owners; Wm. Scott Brown, Michigan Lake and Stream Associations; Tom Frazier, Michigan Townships Association; Shada Biabani, Michigan Aggregates Association; Wayne Wood, Michigan Farm Bureau; Laura Campbell, Michigan Farm Bureau; Mike Wenkel, Michigan Agri-Business Association; George Carr, Michigan Ground Water Association; Bryan Burroughs, Michigan Trout Unlimited; Robert Whitesides, Kalamazoo River Watershed Council; Ben Russell, Southwest Michigan Water Resources Council (SWMWC); Pat Norris, Michigan State University (MSU); Brian Eggers, Michigan Chamber of Commerce; Alan Kehew*, Western Michigan University; Jon Bartholic*, MSU Institute of Water Research (IWR); Frank Ruswick, IWR; Jon Allan*, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Office of the Great Lakes (OGL); Jim Johnson*, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD); Abby Eaton, MDARD; Dina Klemans*, MDEQ Water Resources Division (WRD)

Members Absent
Dr. Michael Stafford, Cranbrook Institute of Science; Gildo Tori, Ducks Unlimited; Frank Ettawageshik, United Tribes of Michigan; Erin McDonough, Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC); Andy Such, Michigan Manufacturers Association; Steven Rice, Michigan Wetlands Association; Dave Lusch, MSU; Howard Reeves*, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); Tammy Newcomb*, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR); Peter Manning *, Department of Attorney General (DAG)

Note: Ex-officio members are denoted by an asterisk.

Others Attending
Larry Walton, SWMWC; Tim Shubert; Brian AcMoody, Branch County Farm Bureau; Dan Ganger, MAISCO; Kim Kerr, Michigan Farm Bureau; Marcy Colclough, Southwest Michigan Planning Commission; Val Vail-Shirley, Julian Vail, LCC; Brant Fisher, MDEQ; Todd Feenstra, Tritium, Inc.; Jim Milne, MDEQ WRD; Laura Young, IWR.

Brian Eggers chaired the first half of the meeting. Members and guests introduced themselves.

Tri-Chair Vacancy
As indicated by her note to the Council, Becky Humphries has accepted a position with the National Wild Turkey Federation in South Carolina. Gildo Tori will continue as the Ducks Unlimited representative. Brian Eggers asked for nominations for a replacement tri-chair. Bryan Burroughs was nominated and elected to fill the vacancy.

Program Related News A summary of Water Use Program statistics was distributed prior to the meeting. Dina Klemans gave a brief synopsis of the year 4 data, which covered the period between July 2012 and July 2013. The program experienced a substantial increase in the number of large quantity withdrawal registrations, nearly doubling from year 3. The ability of MDEQ staff to complete site specific reviews (SSRs) on time is slightly decreasing. The report indicates several reasons for this decline, one of which is the increasing complexity of SSRs in stressed watersheds. There are now four full time staff working on the program, which should help MDEQ improve its response time. Frank Ruswick asked for more information about “compliance issues” cited in the report. An example of this occurs when MDEQ determines that a withdrawal was put into operation differently than authorized by the WWAT or SSR and the WWAT was not rerun. These instances are usually discovered when comparing well logs to registration data. It was requested that MDEQ provide fracking permitting figures to the Council and an updated report when many of the pending SSRs are complete.

The Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan previously released a fracking report for public comment. The Anglers of the Au Sable submitted comments concerning the report to MDEQ Director Dan Wyant. While they mainly address concerns over fracking, some comments deal with stream flow estimations and may be of interest to the Council. Dr. David Hyndman at Michigan State University conducted a study for the organization which found that the WWAT was overestimating streams flows in certain headwater areas in northern Michigan. Dina Klemans distributed these comments to the Council on October 15.

The Office of the Great Lakes submitted three research questions to an MSU graduate course taught by Erin Dreelin. The class chose all three of the OGL questions which dealt with the impacts of future demographics on water use, building capacity to circumvent water use conflict, and evaluating the ecological stress of on-site wastewater treatment systems. Those interested in contacting the students should notify Jon Allan.

Pat Staskiewicz provided an update on the groundwater study conducted by MSU in Ottawa County. The study’s first-phase provided an initial assessment of the county’s groundwater quantity and quality concerns. Among other findings, it was found that hyper-saline groundwater is most prevalent in the center of the county. A proposal for a second-phase study is being finalized and will be funded by the county and MDARD. As part of the second-phase, landowners will provide water quality samples from their wells, which will be incorporated into the study’s analysis. A stakeholder meeting will be held at the end of October.

Public Comment on Agenda Items
There was no public input at this time.

Southwest MI Water Resources Council Update- Marcy Colclough, Southwest Michigan Planning Commission
Marcy Colclough serves as co-chair of the Southwest Michigan Water Resources Council (SWMWC). She provided an overview of SWMWC activities and outcomes. The SWMWC was formed in 2011 and has roughly twenty members with diverse representation from agriculture, conservation organizations, watershed groups, foundations, and municipalities. The group has well attended meetings and several experts have presented to the SWMWC including those from MDEQ and MSU. The SWMWC formed two subcommittees on data collection and funding. A substantial amount of work has taken place in the data collection subcommittee, which is assessing existing data and determining data gaps.

One outcome of the SWMWC’s work so far is that the group is more educated about water withdrawal legislation, the WWAT, and southwest Michigan’s water resources. More trust also exists within the group by continually sharing experiences and listening to one another. The group has also provided valuable feedback to MDEQ regarding the WWAT interface and SSR process.

The SWMWC also started developing consensus items this year, which were included on the first page of Marcy’s handouts. Of particular importance is having privately collected data be considered in the SSR process so long as it conforms to industry or USGS standards (item 7). Another reoccurring theme within the SWMWC is developing regional models for southwest Michigan (item 11). Several consensus items (12-17) revolve around data and emphasize the urgent need for more data to be included in the assessment process. There continues to be a lot of questions pertaining to SSRs and how much of a burden SSRs pose to applicants, especially since SSRs are expected to increase.

Also included in Marcy’s handouts were survey results and general comments about what topics need to be considered by both the SWMWC and the Water Use Advisory Council (WUAC). These responses were not vetted through the SWMWC and are coming from a broader base of stakeholders.

Marcy was thanked for her presentation. Dave Hamilton voiced support for developing regional models for southwest Michigan. He noted that the Technical Underpinnings work group will address this issue and would like to learn more about the SWMWC’s efforts.

Dina Klemans asked about items or issues the SWMWC would like to see considered by the WUAC, as requested by MDEQ Director Wyant. Marcy expects that the SWMWC will start this task after another meeting on consensus items. The SWMWC may also need continued feedback from the WUAC.

George Carr asked if her presentation solely covered the SWMWC commissioned by MDEQ or if it also referenced work done by a private group of citizens in southwest Michigan. Marcy clarified that her presentation only referred to the MDEQ commissioned group. The nonprofit users group has shared some data with the SWMWC and several SWMWC members are also members of the users group.

Jon Allan requested that any information on future agricultural projections be shared. It was noted that MSU Professor Steve Miller submitted a white paper for the Water Strategy regarding areas of the state that have the capacity for irrigation. It was emphasized that this data should not be interpreted as water use trends.

Recommendation to form Inland Lakes Work Group

As noted in the update sent out prior to the Council meeting, the Leadership Committee recommended that a new work group be formed to address inland lake adverse resource impacts (ARIs). Membership for this group is open to Council members only. The work group will have the opportunity to develop a work plan in the same fashion as the other work groups and should not be provided with a list of specific questions by MDEQ or the Council. Guest speakers are encouraged to provide technical expertise to the group but will not have a vote.

Those interested in serving on this work group should notify Dina Klemans and indicate if they intend to remain on their current work group. Members should also send Dina general comments regarding the work group. She will distribute a draft charge via email prior to the next Council meeting. 

Mike Wenkel asked for clarification about the intent of the work group. Dina Klemans explained that the work group is being asked to explore what an ARI looks like for inland lakes and what data is needed for assessment. This does not suggest that a model or screening tool be developed.

Work Group Updates
Wayne Wood chaired the second half of the meeting.

Water Users
The work group is in the process of exploring what will be needed for water users groups to effectively function. At their last meeting, invited watershed group representatives discussed what types of programs they’re involved in and how they obtain their resources. The work group will continue to examine what a toolkit would like for users groups and where funding would come from to support them. Their next step involves identifying areas in Michigan on which to focus that are nearing or have reached capacity.

One issue the group is struggling with is scale. The statute states that users groups may be formed “to assess trends in water use in the vicinity of the withdrawal” but provides little guidance on what that really means. Another challenge with scale is that some organizations are formed around a watershed boundary whereas others are based on jurisdictional lines. The group agrees that size matters and will investigate the relationship between hydrology, geography, number of users, and organizational capacity to best determine a reasonable group size and how large or small the “vicinity” should be.

Water Conservation
The work group is in the process of reviewing conservation practices and policies of other jurisdictions. Megan Miller, a DAG intern, provided a comprehensive overview of practices in northeastern states and in Ontario and Quebec. Compiling this information poses a challenge since jurisdiction websites vary in quality and ease of access. Furthermore, program structures may differ and in general, reviewing the information is time consuming work. They are now examining other Great Lakes states and select western states to get a flavor for what various jurisdictions face under different circumstances.

Frank Ruswick provided his personal perspectives on some of their findings so far. Other jurisdictions are taking similar approaches to Michigan by implementing permitting programs and thresholds for withdrawals. These programs typically have conservation requirements, but few jurisdictions attach specific practices to them. Many jurisdictions have user defined actions including users submitting conservation plans. It’s unclear the extent to which other states review these plans and whether plans are monitored or evaluated after implementation. Some states also require public water supplies to perform educational outreach on conservation.

Different sectors are also beginning to present to the work group including Dale Phenicie of the Council of Great Lakes Industries and Sue McCormick of Detroit Water Sewage Department. There will be a series of additional speakers in the coming months.

Environmental Monitoring
The work group met twice since the last Council meeting. The first meeting focused on how to move forward on inland lakes ARIs and the second started discussions on stream flow monitoring. The group is developing a plan to address stream flow and scheduling meetings for the coming months.

The group will investigate new developments on stream flow since the WWAT was released and determine whether new data is available. The next meeting will feature presentations from MDEQ and USGS. They will also explore comparing index flows modeled in the WWAT with sampling data. The Anglers of the Au Sable report mentioned earlier in the meeting is one example of this. Attendees were encouraged to notify Bryan Burroughs of any data that they know of on stream flow monitoring.

Pat Norris asked if they were looking into citizen science efforts around the state. The work group has not yet delved into this topic but plans on doing so in the future.

Jon Allan mentioned that the Council of Great Lakes Governors passed a resolution in June to coordinate monitoring efforts around the Great Lakes. The Water Strategy also has some components that are looking at which monitoring systems are in place and at what scales and frequencies others are needed to support multiple uses. Dave Hamilton suggested scheduling discussion on this topic as a whole and that it would be helpful to hear the regional perspective.

Technical Underpinnings
The work group has heard presentations on their first four topics and are working through them to develop recommendations. There hasn’t been unanimous agreement within the work group but they are coming closer to consensus. The group will discuss index flow at their next meeting and will have guest speakers present on the topic.

Their first topic deals with switching the WWAT’s scale to 1:24k. There are some issues concerning line work that will need to be addressed if the switch is made. Dave Lusch is working on a proposal for the work group that will be brought to the full Council, likely at the next meeting.

The second issue they’ve explored is depth to bedrock within the WWAT. In some areas of the state, users were registering their wells as bedrock but the glacial material was actually much deeper than recognized by the WWAT. Even so, they were given an automatic “bedrock pass” by the tool. However, they did not rerun the tool for wells that ended up being drilled in the glacial aquifer. MDEQ removed the pass when they became aware of this problem. However, this may become a burden on staff handling SSRs in the future. A recommendation will be made at the next meeting regarding options to better address this issue.

The group is also looking at water management units in the WWAT and whether these delineations can be improved. A recommendation will not be ready by the next Council meeting.

Dina Klemans noted that this would be one of the first recommendations to come from a work group. She asked how much time would be needed for discussion. After their next meeting, Dave Hamilton will update Dina Klemans on this matter.

George Carr expressed some concerns about who owns the WWAT and who has the right to modify it. He was also concerned about the accuracy of maps used in the WWAT.

Other Business
Wayne Wood indicated that the private users group from southwest Michigan prepared a short presentation for the Council on a privately funded groundwater study in the southwest Michigan area. This group will be invited back for a second, in-depth presentation and discussion. Larry Walton, a member of the users group, introduced Todd Feenstra of Tritium, Inc. who gave the presentation. No meeting minutes were taken on this presentation due to the proprietary nature of the information covered. Following the presentation, Dave Hamilton noted that he would be interested in further discussing their study. Wayne Wood suggested that work groups contact the private users group about the study after they’ve made their second, in-depth presentation. Jim Milne asked if Tritium’s study data and groundwater model would be shared with MDEQ. Tritium and their client have not agreed to share the data and model with MDEQ.

Jon Allan updated the Council about the Water Strategy. Six of the ten economic round tables have taken place and the remaining roundtables will wrap up this fall. Jon noted there are other opportunities to participate in the Water Strategy. The Water Strategy’s website is now available at www.michigan.gov/waterstrategy. Comments can be posted on this site and more documents will be uploaded in the coming weeks.

Public Comment on non-agenda items
There was one brief comment from a citizen in southwest Michigan. He noted that growers are willing to work with others to better the water withdrawal assessment process.

Next meeting
December 9, 1:00-4:00 PM
Indian Springs Metropark in Oakland County
5200 Indian Trail
White Lake, MI 48386

Wayne Wood adjourned the meeting.