February 18, 2014 Meeting Notes


Michigan Farm Bureau Headquarters
7373 W. Saginaw Highway Lansing

Members or Alternates Attending
Gary Dawson, Consumers Energy; Pat Staskiewicz, American Water Works Association (AWWA); Dave Hamilton, The Nature Conservancy; James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council; Charles Scott, Michigan Golf Course Owners; Wayne Wood, Michigan Farm Bureau; Laura Campbell, Michigan Farm Bureau; Jim Byrum, Michigan Agri-Business Association; Bryan Burroughs, Michigan Trout Unlimited; Robert Whitesides, Kalamazoo River Watershed Council; Ben Russell, Southwest Michigan Water Resources Council (SWMWRC); 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); Jon Allan*, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Office of the Great Lakes (OGL); Abby Eaton*, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD); Sharon Hanshue*, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR); Dina Klemans*, MDEQ Water Resources Division (WRD)

Members Absent:
Michael Stafford, Cranbrook Institute of Science; Erin McDonough, Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC); Gildo Tori, Ducks Unlimited; Frank Ettawageshik, United Tribes of Michigan; Wm. Scott Brown, Michigan Lake and Stream Associations; Andy Such, Michigan Manufacturers Association; Tom Frazier, Michigan Townships Association; Michael Newman, Michigan Aggregates Association; George Carr, Michigan Ground Water Association; Peter Manning *, Department of Attorney General (DAG)

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

Others Attending
Jim Milne, MDEQ; Andy LeBaron, MDEQ; Larry Walton, SWMWRC; Brian AcMoody, Branch County Farm Bureau; Larry Julian, Julian Vail; Val Vail-Shirey, Julian Vail; Aaron Rice, Prairie Water Users Group; John Yellich, Michigan Geological Survey; Paul Seelbach, Great Lakes Commission; Laura Young, IWR.

Bryan Burroughs chaired the first portion of the meeting. All meeting attendees introduced themselves.

Program Related News
The Aquifer Dispute Resolution legislation passed last year required the MDEQ to establish a fax number for complaints. The toll free fax number is 855-629-4337 but will only accept faxes within Michigan. If sending a fax from outside Michigan, use 517-373-9958.

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

Envisioning a Great Lakes Water System Accounting System - Paul Seelbach, USGS
Bryan Burroughs introduced Paul Seelbach, who was involved in past iterations of the Council and a major contributor to the underpinnings of the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT). He serves as the Chief of the Coastal Ecosystems Branch at the USGS Great Lakes Science Center.

Paul Seelbach shared his work with the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) on developing a comprehensive program for water resources accounting across the Great Lakes Basin. The GLC was asked to develop this program by the Council of Great Lakes Governors (CGLG) in 2013. An accounting program, as opposed to simply a monitoring program, considers both the water budget and aligns information with clear goals so that collected data are useful. A work group was established to carry out this effort, of which Paul is a co-chair. The group’s final report is due in March. The program they are proposing has four main elements, discussed below. Note that these elements are still in draft form as the work group continues to develop the accounting program.

The first element considers the holistic scope of the Great Lakes water system, which is critical to helping decision-makers maximize the economic, social and cultural potential of their regional water resources. While there are numerous ways to define the water system, the work group considers surface water, groundwater and human use as part of the system. The water system is anchored by core societal outcomes (i.e., what society wants from its water resources). Nine total outcomes were identified which fall under one of the following categories: Environment, Human Uses, and Social Values. The nine outcomes include functional habitats, work with coastal/nearshore processes, diverse populations, potable water, sustainable natural resource economies, sustainable water-consuming economies, sustainable water-dependent economies, awareness of water and its impact on quality of life, and investment in water futures. It was clarified that the "investment in water futures" societal outcome does not refer to a water trading system but rather the willingness of society to invest in maximizing the value of its water resources through volunteerism, donations or other methods.

The second element seeks to clarify priority information and the roles of numerous agents in the water system through a shared template of process flows and information supply. Each societal outcome will have its own process flow and information supply spreadsheet with specific inputs, management actions and measureable outputs. A conceptual diagram was presented to illustrate the information supply chain for a societal outcome.

The third element advocates for a common spatial information platform. While there are hundreds of projects going on across the Great Lakes, it’s difficult to reconcile how individual, site-specific projects aggregate to reflect changes in the Great Lakes. This becomes more manageable when using shared scalable spatial units. This could be accomplished by expanding and utilizing the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Framework (GLAHF), a collaborative effort between several organizations to develop a common geographic framework for Great Lakes management. Water data in this spatial platform would be tied to the smallest map units (i.e., stream reaches and catchments or nearshore and offshore grids). It was noted during this discussion that a complete Basin map of stream reaches that connects U.S. and Canadian data is now available. To better manage data across the Great Lakes, intermediate-scale subregions were developed that consider both hydro-ecological and societal aspects. An intermediate scale is useful to fully grasp unique characteristics of a subregion and to tell a story about available data. Data would be accessed online through a dashboard that allowed users to specify a subregion and explore inputs, actions, and outputs as they relate to a particular societal outcome.

The last element, which was still at an idea stage, looks at collaborative governance for water information. It’s envisioned that a multi-agent steering committee would be established to oversee a Great Lakes Water System Accounting Program and help define roles for future information brokers. The committee would help clarify and implement process flows and information supply chains for the nine societal outcomes in a sequential order, tackling one or two outcomes at a time. The status of the outcomes could be reviewed through a recurring forum.

Work Group Updates
Environmental Monitoring
Brian Eggers chaired this portion of the meeting. The work group is drafting recommendations on streamflow that should be ready by March and is also beginning the data gathering process for groundwater. Bryan Burroughs provided a summary of their findings on streamflow which were gathered through multiple presentations from organizations including USGS, MDEQ, MSU and Michigan Trout Unlimited (MITU).

Data from USGS include several years of flow measures from the gage network, miscellaneous and discrete measurements, and expanded monitoring efforts in southwest Michigan. Miscellaneous measures have also been collected by MDEQ. An analysis that compared long term median flows to recent gage station data and another that examined index flow modifications during site-specific reviews (SSRs) were also provided by MDEQ.

The work group also heard from Dave Hyndman (MSU) on his work in the Upper Au Sable and Upper Manistee watersheds. This is the only known data available that were collected before, during, and after a large quantity withdrawal took place in a relatively isolated area. Data have been collected for roughly a year and a half and are much lower than the predicted index flows in the WWAT. Several Council members encouraged the work group to perform further analysis on this data. The WWAT’s index flows reflect a long-term period of record whereas the Hyndman study contains short-term data.

Finally, the work group reviewed the MITU tiered citizen-based monitoring program. Tier 1 monitoring is conducted by citizens using affordable flow meters. If a significant discrepancy is found between a measurement and the predicted index flow, MITU will send out a staff person to conduct sampling using approved USGS protocols and enhanced flow meters. MITU has found that some streamflow measurements are close to predicted index flows whereas others are higher or lower. It was suggested that the work group investigate the variability of the data to determine whether certain site types tend to have higher, lower or similar flows as compared to the WWAT. The work group is considering how this information could be informative during an SSR.

Water Users
The work group expects to address everything in their charge except for recommending approaches and considerations for evaluating local water use trends and projecting future water use demands. Their initial work focused on developing a common understanding of the statute as it relates to users groups. Since then, they have focused on water resource assessment and education committees. They expect these groups to form organically depending upon interests or concerns at the community or watershed level. They will need resources, and some of those can be provided by MDEQ fairly easily. A number of different entities have been identified that could provide leadership for these committees, including watershed groups, conservation districts, etc. The work group has created a table of contents for a resource guidebook, which would be available online. The table of contents will likely be augmented as the work group examines water users committees to add any additional types of information that are considered useful to those groups. To date, topics include: background information (e.g., Michigan’s water law), sources for information on the status of water resources in a particular watershed, financial resources, conflict resolution, and case studies that highlight successes and challenges for these kinds of groups.

The work group is taking a two pronged approach with regards to water users committees. They are brainstorming a set of scenarios under which this kind of committee would be convened, whether done by MDEQ or a group of water users. For each scenario, the work group will investigate what kinds of situations will create challenges or opportunities for a committee. One scenario of interest is what happens when a water users committee is convened because of an observed adverse resource impact (ARI). Reconciling whether the ARI is observed in the accounting system or in the "real world," and whether it is based upon a point in time or a time series will greatly influence the effectiveness of a committee. They are also examining institutional considerations that are needed to create or facilitate collaborative processes for water users committees.

Water Conservation
The work group modified its work schedule based upon the 2014 deadline and plans to meet more frequently. They have heard from multiple sectors but are running into challenges when analyzing their findings. Data may not be available in a standard format to properly compare between sectors or years. In other instances, data are not detailed enough to capture efficient water use. For example, Michigan’s annual agricultural water use reported to the Compact Council is the total use divided by 365, which doesn’t reflect at what times agricultural water use is at its highest or whether there was efficient use. The work group has also found it difficult to track down hard data for sector specific industrial standards or public outreach and educational programs. Additionally, metrics for water conservation are often heavily focused on public water supply systems. However, public water supply use is miniscule in the Great Lakes Basin compared to other uses. The work group needs to address these challenges before making recommendations to the Council.

Inland Lakes
The work group met with USGS and Pat Soranno (MSU) on how to move forward with their strategy to use physical lake level change for inland lake ARI potential as opposed to a biological factor. Of the limited amount of data available in this area, most is for public access lakes and may not be representative of all the lakes in the state. Data sources they have identified include the Michigan Inland Lakes and Stream Associations (ML&SA), USGS, MDEQ, MDNR, and Lakemaster. With regards to lakes that have legally set limits and control structures, data collected on lake levels would need to be obtained on an individual basis through drain commissioners, local lake boards, or others. Additional data is being collected through a survey distributed to organizations affiliated with the ML&SA. The survey seeks to determine which lakes, if any, are monitored and what kind of data are collected. Pat Norris suggested the work group contact Jo Latimore, consultants and municipalities about other lake data. One question the work group will evaluate is whether or not statutory changes are needed in the definition of an inland lake. The availability of data significantly increases when looking at lakes that are ten acres or greater in size as opposed to five.

At their March meeting, they will continue discussing inland lakes classifications. A recommendation on an inland lake ARI definition will be pushed back from their March target. In April, the MDEQ will begin building case studies examining scenarios like the SSR process for a direct withdrawal request.

Technical Underpinnings
After reviewing their work plan, the work group will likely not get through all of their tasks but plans to address the first eight. This includes reviewing index flow modifications, alternate hydrologic models, groundwater modeling, and groundwater/streamflow depletion. The work group is finalizing a recommendation about reinstating the bedrock pass that will be ready at the March meeting. They also expect to have a recommendation ready for March on withdrawal allocations between neighboring water management areas.

Depth to Bedrock Calculation Discussion
MDEQ experienced severe issues where wells registered as bedrock in the WWAT were actually drilled in the glacial aquifer and not reported back to the Department. The bedrock auto pass feature was thus removed, increasing the number of SSRs. The Technical Underpinnings work group provided a Tier I recommendation on improving depth to bedrock calculation in the WWAT by using the top of bedrock depth from the WWAT’s glacial thickness map at a proposed well location instead of calculating an average depth to bedrock for the water management area. The glacial thickness map captures known locations of bedrock valleys and will provide a more accurate estimation of the depth to bedrock. This map was developed from a number of sources including well logs, oil and gas well logs, miscellaneous measurements, health department records, and Natural Resources Conservation Service SSURGO soil data. The data were interpolated and smoothed to create the final product. Al Kehew discussed an approach that determines depth to bedrock with high accuracy (within 5-10 feet) and suggested it as a way to verify the depth. Dave Lusch suggested such an effort be undertaken as a thesis.

The work group also recommends making the WWAT registration number a required field in Wellogic and on paper logs for high capacity wells. This will help the MDEQ reconcile discrepancies between registrations and well logs, which occur for 90% of registrations. Discrepancies include varying well depths, coordinates, pumping rates, and pumping schedules among others. George Carr did not support this recommendation at their work group meeting.

Aaron Rice provided input as to why the percentage of discrepancies is so high. He indicated that most errors are probably from registrants lacking knowledge about the requirements and thought providing educational outreach to landowners would be helpful. He also suggested including some instructional text within the WWAT to clarify what registrants should be entering. Jim Milne explained that instructional text is being added as the WWAT is transferred from MSU to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget and that accompanying online tutorials and webinars will be developed. Dave Hamilton added that the work group also considered outreach efforts for well drillers and landowners.

Brian Eggers asked the Council for consensus on the two recommendations. No one opposed the recommendations and they were both approved by the Council.

Other business
Wayne Wood chaired the last portion of the meeting. Jon Allan provided an overview of the Governor’s budget as it relates to water. Seven strategic issues were highlighted in the proposed budget for MDEQ. This includes $3 million in cleanup activities, $1 million for compliance assistance, $1.9 million for the hazardous waste management program, $1 million for a recycling initiative, $2.5 million for the drinking water loan program, $3.9 million for the water strategy, and a one-time $2.5 million technology systems upgrade. The water strategy funds would encompass several efforts including the water use program, real-time beach monitoring, and additional water quality monitoring. The proposed budget also includes $6 million for aquatic invasive species for the MDNR. The other quality of life agencies (MDEQ and MDARD) will coordinate efforts with the MDNR to address aquatic invasive species. The appropriations process may be completed by May. Jon Allan enlisted the support of the Council through the budget process.

Funding for the Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) program provided through a 2002 bond fund totals $97 million for fiscal year 2014. $3 million will go towards wetland mitigation banking. MDEQ received a significant amount of proposals totaling $541 million in requests. An announcement regarding awards is expected in March.

Robert Whitesides noted that majority of initiatives discussed are using general fund dollars. He sees the Great Lakes as a resource that could be better protected using a paid user fee structure. Jon Allan noted that this has come up at various water dialogues and is something to consider in the future.

Public Comment on Non-Agenda Items
There was no public comment at this time.

Next Meetings
Michigan Farm Bureau has kindly agreed to host the Council again on March 18 and will cater lunch. The meeting is an hour longer than normal and will begin at noon.