April 15, 2014 Meeting Notes

12:00-4:00 PM
East Lansing Public Library
950 Abbot Rd
East Lansing, MI 48823

Members or Alternates Attending:
Gary Dawson, Consumers Energy; Pat Staskiewicz, American Water Works Association (AWWA); Molly Robinson, AWWA; Matt Evans, Michigan United Conservation Clubs; Dave Hamilton, The Nature Conservancy; Gildo Tori, Ducks Unlimited; James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council; Tom Frazier, Michigan Townships Association; Shada Biabani, Michigan Aggregates Association; Laura Campbell, Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB); Jim Byrum, Michigan Agri-Business Association; 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); 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; John Yellich, Michigan Geological Survey (MGS); 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, MDNR; Margaret Bettenhausen *, Department of Attorney General (DAG); Dina Klemans*, MDEQ

Members Absent:
Frank Ettawageshik, United Tribes of Michigan; Charles Scott, Michigan Golf Course Owners; Wm. Scott Brown, Michigan Lake and Stream Associations; Andy Such, Michigan Manufacturers Association; Michael Stafford, Cranbrook Institute of Science

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

Others Attending
Brian AcMoody, Branch County Farm Bureau; Aiman Shahpurwala, Larry Walton, SWMWRC; Sita Karki, MGS; Val Vail-Shirey, Julian-Vail; Jim Milne, MDEQ; Andy LeBaron, MDEQ; Laura Young, MSU.

Brian Eggers welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Program Related News
The Tri-Chairs met with MDEQ Director Wyant regarding Council progress. The Director set a clear expectation that Council work would conclude this December. The Leadership Committee subsequently discussed perspectives on Council operations and progress to meet the deadline.

Dina Klemans distributed a copy of the MFB County Presidents stakeholder letter to the Council and thanked the county Farm Bureaus for their input and thoughtful recommendations. Work groups were asked to consider the comments and recommendations as they proceed in their activities.

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

Work Group Updates
Water Conservation Detailed Presentation

The work group expects to make recommendations for all seven of its charges, six of which are currently being drafted. Since the topics are highly interrelated, they anticipate presenting an integrated report for their recommendations. It is hoped that a complete draft report will be available in July with final recommendations.

Their first charge deals with investigating water use trends in Michigan. As stated during previous meetings, available data typically do not allow for trend analysis. For instance, data may be averaged over a year, lack details for normalization, or are anecdotal in nature. National data indicate per capita reductions in water use for various reasons, including technological improvements, economic forces, and trends toward sustainable practices, which are likely driving water conservation in Michigan as well. Expected recommendations for this charge will address the development of a program for collecting better data, consistency of funding and regulatory programs to support conservation, and the support of efforts that facilitate the infiltration of groundwater (e.g., green infrastructure).

Updating Michigan’s conservation practices constitutes their second charge. A summary of conservation practices in other jurisdictions will be provided in the integrated report. While they have discussed updating Michigan’s generic and sector specific practices through a multi-stakeholder process, they have not yet reached consensus on all aspects of this topic. Several items the work group is considering were highlighted, such as understanding how certain conservation practices may or may not benefit different sectors. The work group is hesitant to recommend or prioritize specific conservation practices given the short timeframe and concern that important viewpoints may be missing from their current discussions.

As part of their third charge, the work group has examined conservation metrics for Michigan and reviewed the low score Michigan received from the national Alliance for Water Efficiency Conservation Scorecard. The work group does not feel the Scorecard metrics accurately reflect the overall status of conservation programs in the state and are not appropriate for Michigan. In general, there is a relative lack of functional metrics to use, though there is agreement that metrics should be outcome based and focused on Michigan’s specific goals and objectives. Two potential models include a water budget approach (e.g., by county or watershed) or one based on expectations (e.g., a specific percentage reduction of use). Ideally, there would be a regional tool that would provide metrics that all Great Lakes states could use, but in the interim, the development of a Michigan toolbox will be recommended.

The fourth charge involves public education and outreach for water conservation. The work group has compiled an initial list of the numerous public and private water conservation programs in Michigan. The work group envisions that these programs would be developed and delivered locally, but that the State could outline a consistent message for them and maintain a catalog of programs on their website.

A recommendation for the fifth charge on responding to public comments on Michigan’s Water Conservation and Efficiency Program, was brought forward last year. The Council concluded that the issues raised in public comment are being addressed by the Council and will be included in the final report. It is still incumbent upon work groups to review the comments under their purview to make sure plan of work still addresses the comments received. Three public comments were specifically discussed. One of the comments encouraged Michigan to develop state specific goals and objectives for its water conservation and efficiency program rather than using the generalized regional goals created in the early implementation of the Compact. The work group believes this should be done through a multi-stakeholder process and subject to broader public involvement. This would likely relate to the Water Strategy although it is not yet clear how they would connect.

Lastly, the work group will provide recommendations on a process for periodic assessment and adjustment of Michigan’s water conservation practices. The work group believes this could be accomplished through a multi-stakeholder process, and that the Council is a first effort in that regard. Continuing the Council and addressing items in the other recommendations (e.g., developing state specific goals, metrics and updating conservation practices) will further this process.

Inland Lakes ARI and Recommendation
The work group is finalizing a framework for prioritizing types of inland lakes where a lake level drop due to a large quantity withdrawal (LQW) is most likely to cause an adverse resource impact (ARI). The framework consists of a decision tree that assigns risk to aquatic resource impacts for lakes from a direct withdrawal based on existing management, hydrology and lake shape. Laura Campbell introduced Kevin Wehrly, DNR Fisheries, to present the draft framework.

Of Michigan’s roughly 65,000 lakes, about 330 have legal lake levels and are considered fully managed by the framework. For the remaining lakes, the decision tree focuses on those greater than 10 acres in size (~6,800 lakes). Part 327 does not cover lakes smaller than 5 acres, which make up roughly 90% of Michigan’s lakes, and there is extremely limited available data for lakes between 5-10 acres. For lakes greater than 10 acres, about 2,900 are considered fully managed because they have inlets and outlets. The remaining 3,900 lakes either do not have an inlet or are completely disconnected.

A GIS-based analysis was conducted to determine whether these 3,900 lakes are groundwater or surface water dominated by calculating mean groundwater velocity for each lake polygon. Lakes with positive groundwater velocities are considered groundwater dominated. Based on this analysis, about 3,600 of those lakes are considered surface water dominated and are not protected by the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT). Those that are groundwater dominated are considered partially managed. The work group has not discussed other factors such as pH that could be used to distinguish whether a lake is surface or groundwater dominated. The work group clarified how they envision the WWAT providing indirect protection to groundwater dominated lakes. While this is an area they are continuing to work on, if there is low risk for ARIs on the surrounding streams near a predominantly groundwater fed lake, the lake will likely also have a low risk for an ARI because it shares the same groundwater system.

All 3,900 disconnected or headwater lakes were classified as small (<100 acres), medium (100-1000 acres) or large (>1000 acres) using MDNR Fisheries standards. Lakes with bathymetry were then classified by lake depth. The work group is in the process of reviewing other factors such as mean depth and the amount of littoral zone loss as indicators of risk. Regardless of acreage, it appears that shallow lakes are at greater risk for ARIs than deep lakes. For this reason, it was suggested that the decision tree group similar characteristics of large and small lakes together rather than using a hierarchal structure. It was also suggested to remove the "fully managed" language from the draft framework.

The work group also brought forward a recommendation on quality assurance and control protocols for collecting bathymetric data. They found from presentations by the USGS, MSU, MDNR and MDEQ that surface mapping is available for most lakes, but only about 4% of Michigan’s lakes have bathymetric data, most of which is only available for public access lakes. MDNR is developing protocols for the collection of bathymetric data beginning this summer. The work group is recommending that MNDR coordinate with MDEQ to ensure that data collected under the new protocols are usable by both Departments, that the protocols are available to the public, and that MDEQ develop training modules to encourage data collection by citizens that meet the standards. Dave Lusch suggested that the work group adopt the protocols if they are finalized before the end of the year. The Council will be asked for consensus on this recommendation in May.

Technical Underpinnings and Recommendation
The work group will provide a more detailed update about their ongoing work at the May meeting. They have been drafting recommendations and examining how streamflow depletion is calculated. At their last meeting, three well drillers attended and shared helpful ideas and concerns with the work group. Some of their next topic areas include reviewing hydrology models and index flow modifications.

Two recommendations were brought forward and are an important follow-up to the recommendations presented by the work group at the February Council meeting. The work group is recommending that an automated process be developed to check for discrepancies between WWAT or site-specific review (SSR) authorizations and completed wells. This process would flag discrepancies for MDEQ to review. Furthermore, they recommend that MDEQ work with stakeholders (e.g., property owners, well drillers, health departments, MSU Extension) to increase understanding of Part 327 requirements and compliance for notifying MDEQ when wells are completed differently than authorized. George Carr did not support these recommendations. The Council will be asked for consensus on the recommendations in May.

It is the liability of the property owner to notify MDEQ if there are discrepancies between registrations and completed wells whereas well drillers are only required to submit well logs. The primary issue these recommendations are seeking to address is that frequently, landowners are not notifying MDEQ when wells are completed differently than authorized by the WWAT or SSR. It could be up 90 days before a well log is submitted to MDEQ and entered into Wellogic and even longer for program staff to identify any discrepancies. There is no systematic evaluation to match a WWAT registration to a well log until some future time when MDEQ is conducting an SSR. These recommendations are intended to reduce those delays. This is also an important issue for the water users work group. There are cases where property owners are not engaged with the process and may be unaware of this requirement (e.g., when a lessee is the water user).

George Carr explained his opposition to the recommendations. Well logs are subject to criminal penalties in Michigan, and he cannot support the recommendations without understanding specifics as to how they will be implemented. He suggested that MDEQ work with well drillers to implement an immediate voluntarily program for electronic Wellogic filing and create a working group to handle the issue going forward. He noted that several recommendations from the work group are interrelated (e.g., bedrock pass and the 50% max rule) and suggested examining how they work in concert to avoid unintended consequences.

Lengthy discussion was held regarding discrepancies between registrations and completed wells. Discrepancies occur for a variety of reasons. The problem has less to do with the fact that discrepancies occur, but rather that landowners are not notifying MDEQ about differences between registrations and completed wells. During this discussion, it was noted that a range of allowable error may be needed when specifying well locations on well logs. 

Environmental Monitoring and Recommendations
The work group has begun information gathering for their groundwater related charges and is in the final stages of drafting streamflow recommendations. Bryan Burroughs presented an initial draft of the seven streamflow recommendations . A final draft will be distributed to the Council following their next work group meeting.

The charges, background and findings sections of the draft recommendations were briefly reviewed. The findings section was quite detailed and summarized much of the information already presented during earlier Council meetings. The work group would like feedback about the desired level of detail for this section and whether additional tables and figures are needed.

The first recommendation designates high priority data areas for additional streamflow monitoring as those with high demand for LQWs now and the in the future (e.g., southwestern Michigan). The second recommendation examines ongoing data needs to identify spatial priorities for future data collection based upon gaps in datasets with discrete measurements. This would improve the overall base of streamflow data. Records from the USGS Miscellaneous Measurements Database vary widely between streams. Some streams may have multiple years of records while others only have one. MDEQ references these measurements during SSRs if available. When Dave Hamilton worked for the Department, an internal review was completed identifying areas that lacked sufficient discrete measurements. MDEQ and USGS targeted these areas for future data collection. Dina Klemans suggested the work group complete a new analysis and compare it with the previous evaluation. She encouraged the work group to consider including specific geographic priorities in the recommendation. It was noted during the discussion that there is significant value in making miscellaneous and discrete measurements easily accessible to the public.

The work group sees value in collecting both long-term time series data and less frequent discrete measurements. Long-term gaging information provides an enormous amount of data and may document real world impacts of withdrawals while sufficient amounts of discrete measurements may help MDEQ identify areas with significant discrepancies in index flow predictions. In general, additional monitoring would help assess the status of water resources in areas of expanding water use and enable the program to examine changes in climate.

Part 327 requires the Department to develop a protocol for the collection of streamflow data by non- agency staff. However, all data used for the program must meet USGS standards. The work group recommends that MDEQ develop clear protocols for streamflow data collection that utilize a multi- tiered approach and are posted on their website. This third recommendation is intended to incorporate additional data that may deviate from USGS protocol but is still informative. For example, one requirement of USGS protocol is that data must be collected and submitted to USGS within two weeks. There have been situations where good quality data no longer met USGS criteria because they were not submitted within the timeframe. Data meeting USGS standards could be considered top tier with subsequent tiers deviating from that protocol. Lower tier data would only be used in certain applications (e.g., flagging areas for additional monitoring conducted using USGS standards). Howard Reeves suggested the most optimal long-term solution would be for the program to have its own database as opposed to accepting data that does not meet the proper standards into a national USGS database.

The fourth recommendation explores the ability to use data outside of the SSR process. The work group recommends that new streamflow data are used to update and refine index flow predictions for water withdrawal assessment process that meet standards developed from recommendation 3. Mike Wenkel asked whether new data would be required to have at least 10 years of records. Those specifics will need to be determined when setting the standards from recommendation 3. This recommendation is not intended to adjust watershed capacity within the WWAT if data were provided indicating that there were no changes in observed stream flow from a withdrawal.

There was not sufficient time left to discuss the remaining recommendations, which dealt with citizen collected data, observing real world impacts of withdrawals and updating the statistical analysis of long- term median flows. While the work group initially passed this item to the Technical Underpinnings work group, they were able to investigate it. Adding data from 2007-2012 did not significantly change index flow predictions currently used in the WWAT.

Water Users
The work group narrowed its discussions down into two challenges that water users committees will likely face. One is engaging water users in a committee, and the other is the environment in which decisions about voluntary measures can be made. The work group expects that there will only be two common situations that would prompt the formation of a users committee. One in which an ARI occurs and MDEQ convenes a committee and the other where a new user through SSR receives a conclusion but tries to convene a water users committee on his or her own. They are continuing to discuss the types of situations that need to be created or eliminated to facilitate the work of water user committees. Jon Allan encouraged the work group to continue discussing the makeup of water users committees and engage with Margaret Bettenhausen. Pat Norris clarified that it is not a matter of who can be a member of committee but rather who is involved in the event that MDEQ must propose a solution. The work group has not reached agreement on this issue.

Other Business
No other business was discussed.

Public Comment on Non-Agenda Items
Larry Walton shared his experience with the SSR process from a producer’s perspective. He recently purchased land with the expectation that he would be able to make a LQW on it. The seller ran the WWAT and confirmed that the land would get a pass. In the time it took to pursue financing, the registration expired. A request was submitted on March 19 and indicated that a SSR was required. He is still waiting for a determination despite that irrigation equipment will be shipped soon. Once his withdrawal is approved, he plans to install a test well with a monitoring device to measure the impact of the withdrawal. He is willing to share this information with the Council, possibly during the August Council meeting. He thanked the Council for the opportunity to speak.