December 9, 2013 Meeting Notes

December 9, 2013 | 1:00– 4:00 P.M.
Environmental Discovery Center
5200 Indian Trail
White Lake, Michigan

Members or Alternates Attending

Gary Dawson, Consumers Energy; Molly Robinson, American Water Works Association (AWWA); Dave Hamilton, The Nature Conservancy; Gildo Tori, Ducks Unlimited; James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council; Frank Ettawageshik, United Tribes of Michigan; Tom Frazier, Michigan Townships 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; Steven Rice, Michigan Wetlands Association; Pat Norris, Michigan State University (MSU); Dave Lusch, MSU; Brian Eggers, Michigan Chamber of Commerce; Howard Reeves*, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); 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); Tammy Newcomb*, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR); Margaret Bettenhausen *, Department of Attorney General (DAG); Dina Klemans*, DEQ Water Resources Division (WRD)

Members Absent:

Erin McDonough, Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC); Charles Scott, Michigan Golf Course Owners; Wm. Scott Brown, Michigan Lake and Stream Associations; Andy Such, Michigan Manufacturers Association; Dr. Michael Stafford, Cranbrook Institute of Science; Michael Newman, Michigan Aggregates Association; Robert Whitesides, Kalamazoo River Watershed Council; Ben Russell, Southwest Michigan Water Resources Council (SWMWRC)

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

Others Attending

Jim Milne, MDEQ WRD; Larry Julian, Julian Vail; John Yellich, Michigan Geological Survey; Adam Wygant, DEQ Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals (OOGM); Mark Snow (OOGM); Michael Arens, Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority; Bonnie McGill; MSU; Aaron Rice Prairie River Water Users Group; Paul Muelle, Huron-Clinton Metroparks; Laura Young, IWR.


Brian Eggers chaired the first part of the meeting and thanked George Carr and the Huron-Clinton Metroparks for hosting the Council. Brian introduced George Phifer, Deputy Director of Metroparks, who welcomed the Council.

In Mr. Phifer’s opening remarks, he noted that the Metroparks span five counties in southeastern Michigan, and that the area uses 22 million gallons of potable water and 30 million gallons of water for irrigation purposes annually. Following Mr. Phifer’s welcome, all meeting attendees introduced themselves.

Program Related News

Jon Allan provided an update about the recently renewed Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). The Great Lakes Executive Committee (GLEC) is responsible for overseeing the Agreement. There are ten bodies of work, or Annexes, that were included in the GLWQA ranging from Areas of Concern to invasive species. Work is beginning on Annex 8 which deals with coordinating groundwater science and management actions. Jon Allan is serving on the subcommittee for Annex 8.

Public Comment on Agenda Items

There was no public input at this time.

Hydraulic Fracturing, Water Use, and Proposed Rule Changes- Adam Wygant, MDEQ OOGM

Mr. Wygant provided a basic overview of the oil and wells in Michigan. Since 1925, 60,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled. There are 4,500 active oil wells, 11,000 gas wells, 1,300 injection and disposal wells and 3,000 gas storage wells. The MDEQ OOGM oversees several oil and gas regulations including those affecting well location and spacing, drilling and construction, and well completion. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) falls under the well completion category.

An overview of the hydraulic fracturing process was covered. Water is pumped at high pressure to produce fractures in the rock, which causes oil or gas to move more freely to the wellbore. Proppant (typically sand) is used to hold the fractures open. Small amounts of chemical additives are used to increase the effectiveness of this process. Fracturing fluid usually consists of 99.5% water and proppant and 0.5% chemical additives. Wells used for hydraulic fracturing must have surface casing at least 100 feet below the lowest fresh drinking water zone as well as intermediate casing for added protection. Hydraulic fracturing wells can have multiple stages; vertical wells usually have 1-2 fracking stages while horizontal wells could have 20 stages that run along a two mile stretch.

Hydraulic fracturing began in 1952 in Michigan. Since then, over 12,000 wells have been hydraulically fractured. There have been 70 completed wells that are considered high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations (those that use over 100,000 gallons of water), the first of which commenced in 1987. The first horizontal fracking well was drilled in 1985 and approximately 1,300 horizontal wells have been drilled since. Most fracking operations are concentrated in the Utica-Collingwood formation near Kalkaska County. Some development is also occurring in the A1 Carbonate formation in west and mid- Michigan. On average, deep horizontal wells use about 5 million gallons of water, equivalent to irrigating five acres of corn in a growing season or running a 1,000 MW coal-fired power plant for 12 hours. To date, the largest fracking withdrawal in Michigan was 21 million gallons in the Utica- Collingwood formation. Hydraulic fracturing accounts for about 0.02% of total consumptive water use for the state of Michigan.

There are existing regulatory safeguards for hydraulic fracturing including water use restrictions, groundwater protection and air quality protection. Some of these safeguards currently exist as supervisor instructions and are being codified by the proposed rule changes. There are no instances of groundwater contamination from fracking in Michigan, and the state has several regulations on well construction and casing to protect against contamination. Flowback water from fracking operations is stored in steel tanks with secondary containment (e.g., plastic lining) and transported to a disposal well where the flowback water is injected into deep bedrock layers. Spills over 42 gallons must be reported to MDEQ and cleaned up within thirty days. Furthermore, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are posted at all operating sites and on MDEQ’s website. Companies must disclose chemical details to medical professionals in the case of an emergency. MDEQ also requires the complete capture of methane gas at flaring sites.

Finally, Mr. Wygant described the proposed rule changes, which focus on water withdrawals, baseline water sampling, monitoring and reporting, and chemical additive disclosure. The changes codify fracking operations to use the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT) or to request a site-specific review (SSR); OOGM must approve the application before starting a withdrawal and will deny an application that will cause an ARI. Furthermore, if the operation is within a quarter mile of a freshwater well, it must install a monitor well and develop a contingency plan to prevent impacts on nearby wells. Chemical disclosure will now be handled through the Groundwater Protection Council’s website; operators must submit the chemical name and concentration (or chemical family and trade name if a federally protected trade secret) to the database. MSDSs will still be required on site. There will also be improved access for the public to view and comment on permits by utilizing a listserv to publish them weekly. Two public meetings will be held on the proposed rule changes early next year. One will be held in northern Michigan and the other in southern Michigan. The new rules are expected to go into effect by fall of 2014.

Frank Ettawageshik asked what the percent of flowback is for water pumped during a fracking operation. It can vary greatly across the U.S., but in Michigan, 25% of the water used is flowback. Al Kehew asked what happens to the wells once the fracking operation is finished. In most cases, the wells are abandoned. In rare instances, they can become private wells with approval from the county health department.

Inland Lakes ARI Work Group Charge

Bryan Burroughs chaired this portion of the meeting. He asked Dina Klemans to provide an overview of the draft Inland Lakes ARI charge that was distributed prior to the meeting. The draft charge is consistent with the other work group charges. The background section describes Part 327’s prohibition for large quantity water withdrawals to cause an ARI to waters of the state, but notes that well- established tools and decision-making frameworks do not exist for dealing with inland lake and pond ARIs as they are for rivers and streams. Furthermore, the draft charge explains that both direct and indirect withdrawals could cause the same adverse resource impacts, even though Part 327 only refers to direct withdrawals in its loose definition of inland lake ARIs. With regards to specific tasks, it was emphasized that the work group should consider both short-term and long-term approaches to preventing ARIs in inland lakes and ponds.

Bryan Burroughs asked for comments. Dave Hamilton suggested changing the language in the first paragraph to read, "…determine whether an adverse resource impact is likely to occur" instead of "has occurred." He also recommended the work group find a hydrologist to participate. The draft charge was approved by the Council. Council members should notify Dina Klemans if they would like to participate in the work group or if they know of experts that should be brought in to present. MDEQ will set up the first meeting for the work group once membership is finalized. At that meeting, the work group will elect co-chairs.

Guidance for Recommendations

A guidance document for future recommendations was sent out prior to the meeting on behalf of the Leadership Committee. Bryan Burroughs asked if members had questions or comments. Dina Klemans noted that the Leadership Committee intended this document to provide guidance for formalized, written recommendations. However, this level of detail and formality is not required when a work group first introduces a recommendation to the Council. Work groups only need to provide background information and rationale for recommendations being brought to the Council for the first time. Following discussion, the work group can incorporate Council feedback into a formalized, written recommendation. 

Work Group Update

Technical Underpinnings

The work group is exploring how depth to bedrock is calculated within the WWAT and why MDEQ removed the "bedrock pass" feature. The work group expects to make a recommendation on how to improve the bedrock pass feature so it can be incorporated into the tool again. The work group also expects to make a recommendation on how water withdrawals are allocated between neighboring water management areas (WMA). The group is increasing the length of time for their meetings and possibly the frequency.

1:24,000 Map Scale Recommendation Discussion

The Technical Underpinnings work group brought forth a recommendation to change the scale in the WWAT and associated process from 1:100,000 to 1:24,000. The recommendation was not unanimous by the work group. Dave Hamilton introduced the recommendation and explained that increases in map scale increase the detail and accuracy of a map. When the WWAT was developed, the best available stream basemap was the USGS 1:100,000 scale National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) Plus, though it was the intent of previous councils to switch to a 1:24,000 map scale when available.

Dave Lusch continued the recommendation presentation. While the NHD distinguishes between streams/rivers and canals/ditches, it further subdivides streams/rivers into perennial and intermittent classifications but does not do this for canals and ditches. This is problematic because the water withdrawal assessment process applies only to perennial water bodies, not intermittent. The WWAT identifies all neighboring WMAs that touch the "home" WMA and calculates streamflow depletions for each one based on the distance from the proposed well to the nearest stream segment in each WMA. If intermittent streams are included in these calculations, the depletion estimates could be inaccurate. Much of Lower Michigan was classified using the canal/ditch class and there is no automated process to remove intermittent canals and ditches. Currently, this issue is fixed on an individual basis during SSRs.

A proposed solution to this problem is utilizing the 1:24,000 scale of the dataset for the base hydrography in the WWAT once intermittent canals/ditches are removed.

Dave Lusch tested how long it would take to remove intermittent streams from the dataset for four- township areas in Tuscola and St. Joe counties. He estimated it would take one year for 8 full-time workers to complete southern Lower Michigan or 12 employees for the entire Lower Peninsula.

George Carr opposed the recommendation and explained his reasoning. He is concerned that the data is outdated (from the 1980s) and inaccurately categorizing land as streams. He wanted to see more current data used and also wanted to know who would confirm whether a stream on the map actually exists in the field. Would it be MDEQ staff, a contractor, or others? Would there be public input on this process? Dave Lusch and Dave Hamilton explained that the USGS dataset was verified with a field check and is the only database that exists with intermittent and perennial classifications.

There was lengthy discussion about the recommendation following the presentation; however, the Council was not ready to put the recommendation to a vote. This recommendation will be further discussed at the January meeting. Comments regarding the recommendation are summarized below. Some water bodies may fluctuate between perennial and intermittent over the course of several years, as experienced in the Grand Traverse area. Other intermittent streams may have been replaced by tiling.

It was noted that in Dave Lusch’s analysis, 83% of segments were removed as intermittent canals/ditches in Tuscola County and 32% for St. Joseph. He was also unable to find uncaptured perennials within the two datasets. Removing intermittent canals/ditches could be prioritized and implemented by watershed instead of all at once. Members also asked several questions, including how drain commissioners would be involved in the scale change, whether the enhanced database would be useful for other models, and if intermittent streams are removed, would capacity within the WWAT be reallocated for watersheds? In most cases, more water would be available, but some areas could become more sensitive (e.g., the neighboring WMA is a cool-transitional stream). Others asked what the environmental and financial costs are of not implementing the recommendation or how a change in map scale would impact already registered users. It would be helpful to frame the perennial/ intermittent issue and possible solutions in terms of advantages and disadvantages for all the options and then discuss an implementation process.

Environmental Monitoring

At their meeting, MDEQ and USGS presented on their stream monitoring efforts in Michigan. The group examined the stream gage network and miscellaneous measurements that are taken and discussed how to build a stronger program. Specifically, what additional data needs to be collected and where? How can this information be prioritized? Dr. David Hyndman will be presenting at their next meeting on December 19 from 1:00-4:00 P.M. at the Michigan Farm Bureau Headquarters. Interested Council members were invited to attend.

Water Users

The work group is currently looking at the leadership of water users groups and how it develops. They are also discussing what information will be useful to users groups and ways to facilitate their work and provide them with technical information.

Water Conservation

The work group is continuing to invite different water use sectors to their meetings. In October, the Council of Great Lakes Industries and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department presented. Driving water conservation practices for industries is the degree to which they will provide value to the operation. Public water supplies are also facing a dilemma because decreases in water use from water conservation practices could raise the price per unit cost for rates. At their next meeting, the work group will hear from the food processing industry. Members are also reviewing conservation and efficiency programs of other Great Lakes states.

Other Business

Pat Norris asked that meeting locations be determined a few months in advance to provide enough time to coordinate schedules. The Council supported the 2014 meeting schedule and wanted to keep moving meetings around the state.

Public Comment on non-agenda items

Mike Arens with the Huron-Clinton Metroparks thanked the Council for attending and invited the Council back to the Metroparks facilities at any time. Howard Reeves noted that the Huron-Clinton Metroparks are a very proactive group and praised their efforts for quickly setting up "Crowd Hydrology" gaging sites in the Metroparks.

Next meetings

The next meeting location has yet to be determined. Please contact Laura Young if you are willing to host.