March 18, 2014 Meeting Notes

March 18, 2014 | 12:00 – 4:00 P.M.
Michigan Farm Bureau Headquarters
7373 W. Saginaw Highway Lansing, MI 48917

Members or Alternates Attending
Pat Staskiewicz, American Water Works Association; Matt Evans, Michigan United Conservation Clubs; Dave Hamilton, The Nature Conservancy; Frank Ettawageshik, United Tribes of Michigan; Charles Scott, Michigan Golf Course Owners; Tom Frazier, Michigan Townships Association; Wayne Wood, Michigan Farm Bureau; Laura Campbell, Michigan Farm Bureau; Mike Wenkel, Michigan Potato Industry Commission; George Carr, Michigan Ground Water Association; Bryan Burroughs, Michigan Trout Unlimited; Robert Whitesides, Kalamazoo River Watershed Council (KRWC); Steve Hamilton, KRWC; Ben Russell, Southwest Michigan Water Resources Council (SWMWRC); Pat Norris, Michigan State University (MSU); Dave Lusch, MSU; Howard Reeves*, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); Alan Kehew*, Western Michigan University; John Yellich, Michigan Geological Survey; Jon Bartholic*, MSU; Frank Ruswick, MSU; Jon Allan*, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Office of the Great Lakes (OGL); Abby Eaton*, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD); Tammy Newcomb*, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR); Sharon Hanshue, DNR; Margaret Bettenhausen *, Department of Attorney General (DAG); Dina Klemans*, MDEQ

Members Absent
Gary Dawson, Consumers Energy; Gildo Tori, Ducks Unlimited; James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council; Wm. Scott Brown, Michigan Lake and Stream Associations; Andy Such, Michigan Manufacturers Association; Steven Rice, Michigan Wetlands Association; Dr. Michael Stafford, Cranbrook Institute of Science; Michael Newman, Michigan Aggregates Association; Brian Eggers, Michigan Chamber of Commerce

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

Others Attending
Todd Feenstra, Tritium, Inc.; Larry Walton, SWMWRC; Jim Milne, MDEQ; Andy LeBaron, MDEQ; Bonnie McGill, MSU; Adam Reimer, MSU; Aaron Rice, Prairie Water Users Group; Larry Julian, Julian Vail; Val Vail-Shirey, Julian Vail; Maria Lopez, MSU; Brian AcMoody, Branch County Farm Bureau; Brant Fisher, MDEQ; Aiman Shahpurwala; Laura Young, MSU.

Bryan Burroughs opened the meeting and welcomed everyone. He thanked Farm Bureau for hosting and providing lunch. Meeting attendees introduced themselves.

Jon Allan noted there was a mistake in the February 18 final meeting summary. The Governor’s proposed budget included $6 million for invasive species not just aquatic invasives as the notes stated.

Program Related News
Laura Campbell noted that an attorney from the thumb area expressed concerns that the water withdrawal registration process was being held up by those registering wells on another landowner’s property or registering wells with no intention of drilling them. Jim Milne indicated that while others can register on behalf of a property owner (with the property owner’s authorization), the property owner is ultimately responsible for compliance. Changes to the interface of the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT) will include contact information for the person registering if different from the property owner. Complaints regarding wells registered on another landowner’s property should be directed to the MDEQ WRD. The registration list posted on can be used to verify well locations though this may not be readily apparent to water users. Bryan Burroughs noted that this issue has been flagged and that the Council will follow-up as appropriate.

The Council of Great Lakes Governors (CGLG) is meeting in April to review progress on resolutions passed last June. The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) is working on behalf of the CGLG to address Annex 10 regarding monitoring and accounting systems for the Great Lakes. An interim assessment of their work will be presented in April and will be made public following the meeting.

The Michigan Water Strategy is due to the Governor in April. The Water Strategy references the importance of the Water Use Advisory Council but does not include recommendations at this time since the Council’s work will not be finished until December. The Water Strategy will be available for public comment after internal review.

Public Comment on Agenda Items
Aaron Rice invited the Council for a field trip to review an area with a number of site-specific reviews (SSRs) in Branch County for the July 15 or August 19 meeting dates. Bryan Burroughs noted the Council appreciated the offer and would discuss field trips later in the agenda.

Southwest Michigan Groundwater Study
Todd Feenstra, President of Tritium, Inc., presented on procedures used in a southwest Michigan hydrogeologic study and the types of data generated that could be incorporated into the SSR process. Data collection methods for transmissivity, aquifer storage, and streambed leakance were discussed.

Data were collected for the study through various means including pumping tests and slug tests. To avoid taking a significant amount of land out of agricultural production, monitoring wells were either placed near an existing irrigation well or were drilled first and screened at the same depth as a proposed irrigation well. A number of devices used to measure water levels and discharge measurements were discussed including handheld meters, pressure transducers, and ultrasonic meters. Sediment samples were also collected for sieve analysis to assess aquifer behavior. John Yellich encouraged the sharing of sediment logs with other organizations to improve geologic mapping efforts. Monitoring data for key parameters (e.g., transmissivity) can be input into the WWAT’s batch tool during site specific review. For this study, data submitted to MDEQ included well logs and sieve analysis data. MDEQ is developing guidance, which will be presented to the Environmental Monitoring work group, for what data are accepted for SSRs and how they would be used. MDEQ just received modeling software that can be utilized in SSR if necessary. However, complex modeling takes time and may exceed the ten day deadline for SSRs. Roughly 70 SSRs are past the deadline and still pending. Jim Milne is willing to present an update on pending SSRs at the next Council meeting if desired.

Pat Staskiewicz asked about the possibility of developing an effective model at a county scale. While downscaled models will be more representative of those regions, Todd Feenstra does not consider the county level to be an appropriate scale for site-specific analysis on a field. Howard Reeves noted that a regional model for southwest Michigan could reduce the amount of staff time spent traveling to the area.

George Carr asked how streamflow measurements in the WWAT compare to data collected in Todd’s study. Todd indicated that in some instances the measurements are an order of magnitude higher than what is in the WWAT. Note that streamflow estimates in the WWAT are conservative and that the study area represents primarily the downstream portions of the watersheds, which should have higher stream discharges than the mean discharge of the watershed. He found no instances where streamflow was lower than values in the WWAT.

Bryan Burroughs thanked Todd for his presentation.

Work Group Updates
Wayne Wood chaired this portion of the meeting.

Water Users
Pat Norris provided an in-depth presentation on behalf of the work group. She recapped the three kinds of users committees referenced by Part 327 and noted that the common need between them is resources. They are continuing to develop and refine an outline of suggested content for creating a guidebook to assist water resources assessment and education committees which will be expanded as they consider the other two committee types. Throughout the presentation, several members noted the importance of providing detailed content for committees to get started and reach a place of common understanding for effective functioning.

The presentation focused heavily on water users committees, which consist of those with registered large quantity groundwater withdrawals (LQW), though the work group is not clear on membership(e.g., whether this includes those that registered baseline capacity prior to the WWAT). Other complicating factors for membership include those who are making LQW but are not registered and those who are closely involved with water use activities but are not the landowner (e.g., a grower leasing land). Another issue that needs to be resolved is the size of the watershed. Is the watershed the size of the water management areas in the WWAT? If so, some situations could require certain registrants to participate on multiple committees.

While user committees may form on their own, they must be convened by MDEQ if it is determined that an adverse resource impact (ARI) is occurring from a withdrawal. However, the work group sees it as unlikely that users will come together without some sort of catalyst. If convened following an observed ARI, the users committee will have 30 days to assess and agree upon voluntary measures. After 30 days, MDEQ can propose a solution, though it is not legally binding.

The work group expects one of the first actions for committees will be coming to agreement about whether or not there is a problem. This may entail acceptance that groundwater withdrawals affect streamflow, that streamflow directly supports characteristic fish populations, that fish populations are an adequate indicator, and that ecosystem protection is an accepted goal. The work group sees the last two items as less contentious than the first two. It is also expected that committees will struggle with the notion of prior use equals prior right by their members.

There are several spots at which a committee will be faced with uncertainty, including index flow estimations, stream classifications, and what specifically is used to determine an ARI is occurring. Questions the work group identified include whether ARIs are observed in the WWAT accounting system, actual streamflow observations, or both; whether data used to prove the existence of an ARI are based upon a point in time or a time series; and whether ARIs are permanent.

Other challenges include those identified by the Technical Underpinnings work group (e.g., what happens when a stream classification is changed to a more restrictive classification) and several situations where issues may need to resolved through litigation. Decision-making is also affected by external constraints such as production or tournament contracts and loan financing that require irrigation. There are institutional constraints, whether legal or administrative in nature that will impact the functioning of these committees.

If a users committee is able to come to agreement, other questions include whether MDEQ will accept their agreement and how a set of voluntary measures would fit within the WWAT accounting system. Implementing practices may take a significant amount of time, presenting challenges for users if they need to meet the 30 day deadline. Once agreement is reached, other questions to answer are who will monitor the voluntary measures, and what specifically will be monitored (e.g., withdrawals, streamflow, behavior).

Given these various challenges, it was asked if the work group plans to suggest a more effective structure for utilizing water users group within the water withdrawal assessment process. The work group has initiated some discussion in that area. They have identified water management districts in other states that use varying degrees of prior appropriation and riparian structures.

Inland Lakes ARI
The work group distributed a handout on their progress to date. They are continuing to receive responses to their survey of Michigan Lakes and Streams Associations (MLSA) members regarding lake data. Only about 30 percent of lakes have lake level data, of which records span 1-75 years and data quality is highly variable. For example, some lake levels are measured only when putting a dock in and taking it out. The work group is considering the benefits of installing staff gages on all inland lakes. Official USGS staff gages are quite expensive with additional costs for operating and maintenance, but there are much more affordable options.

The work group is conducting GIS analyses to determine how different types of lakes will respond to a 1’ and 3’ decline in water levels. Results of this analysis should be available at the April Council meeting. They are also beginning to discuss and prioritize other uses of inland lakes and MDEQ is developing case studies for a proposed direct LQW surface withdrawal.

Technical Underpinnings
The work group’s third recommendation about reinstituting the bed rock pass is still under development but should be drafted soon. They are continuing to review withdrawal allocations between neighboring water management areas and investigating specific issues such as reallocating streamflow depletions when an intermittent stream reach is truncated. The work group will be able to give an in-depth presentation on this topic at a later Council meeting.

Environmental Monitoring
The work group is continuing to develop recommendations for streamflow. The recommendations will include data needs and priority areas for additional monitoring, protocols and standards for data collection, and processes for integrating data into the water withdrawal assessment process. They are considering other ways to broaden data collection and provide additional opportunities for collected data to be utilized.

Their next meeting will feature a presentation on 3D geologic mapping by Richard Berg, Chief Scientist of the Illinois State Geological Survey. The Council was invited to attend. For those who were unable to participate, a recording of the presentation is available at

Water Conservation
The work group is still preparing data for their recommendations. They have examined water conservation and efficiency programs of other Great Lakes states including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio. The strictest regulations identified are in Minnesota, where withdrawals greater than 10,000 gallons per day must be registered and flow meters are required for measuring water quantity within 10% accuracy. Water users must also submit their registration for approval by the local soil and water conservation district and indicate specific uses of the water. A copy of the permit application will be distributed to the Council.

As noted at previous Council meetings, water use data in the Great Lakes tends to be reported in overall large quantities, making detailed analysis difficult, especially between drought and wet years. Determining the overall change in irrigation statewide does not adequately reflect the effectiveness of conservation practices. It was noted during this discussion that the SALUS model developed at MSU by Bruno Basso looks at water use and groundwater recharge rates for specific crop commodities.

With regards to water use trend projections by sector, many data are available for the municipal sector, which indicate a decline in per capita water use. Jan Beecher, Director of the Institute of Public Utilities at MSU, is one potential data source for public utility projections. Pat Staskiewicz would also be able to compile municipal water use data for Ottawa County. Water use trends have not been identified for agriculture though areas of the state that have the capacity for irrigation have been mapped by MSU Professor Steve Miller. Pat Norris noted that a new understanding of trends may be needed instead of relying on historical data. Understanding of sector by sector demand can act as a regional planning tool and reduce the likelihood of conflict. It will also significantly help MDEQ focus on priority areas and issues and improve the decision-making process.

Bryan Burroughs noted that as work groups provide these detailed updates, any additional thoughts or concerns triggered by the discussion should be voiced to engage with the process. He encouraged Council members not to save comments for later.

Council Meeting Schedule and Potential Field Trips
The Leadership Committee is considering site visits and field trips in association with upcoming Council meeting dates in May, July and August. Options currently under consideration include a trip to southwest Michigan and another to northeastern Michigan. It is envisioned that field trips would be held in the morning and meetings would remain in the afternoon to accommodate those who may not be able to make a full day meeting. Bryan Burroughs asked for feedback regarding site visits. All Council members were in favor of moving meetings around the state.

Frank Ettawageshik invited the Council to the Petoskey area, co-hosting with the Tipp of the Mitt Watershed Council. Since Petoskey is a longer drive, he indicated that a block of rooms could be reserved at a discounted rate for overnight travel, if needed.

Tammy Newcomb was interested in seeing techniques used by growers to manage tile drainage and see other cutting edge technologies associated with their production. Conservation districts would be able to identify potential sites. She also expressed interest in viewing dairy operations and learning about their associated water use.

Mike Wenkel suggested heading to Montcalm County in southwest Michigan to see the MSU Research Station there. A hydrologist is conducting studies on water use with the station’s center pivot and could present some of their data. August was suggested as a viable date.

George Carr offered to find a well drilling site for the Council to see.

Other Business
There was no other business discussed.

Public Comment on Non-agenda Items
Brian AcMoody, President of the Branch County Farm Bureau, thanked Council members for their service. He noted that a group of producers in his area wanted to learn more about the water withdrawal assessment process following a number of SSRs in the county. While the group originated in Branch County, it has since expanded to include nine other counties in southwest Michigan. The group of approximately 20 farmers has compiled a set of suggestions that they would like the Council to consider. The Council was invited to Branch County if desired. Brian AcMoody thanked the Council for his time. Jon Allan encouraged the group to continue engaging with the Council and thanked them for their input. The letter of recommendations will be scanned and distributed to the Council.

Next meetings
April 15 from 12:00-4:00 PM at the East Lansing Public Library located at 950 Abbot Rd, East Lansing, MI 48823. Lunch will be provided for Council members only that RSVP by April 7.