July 15, 2014 Meeting Notes

1:00– 4:00 P.M.
Hartwick Pines Visitor Center & Logging Museum
Grayling, MI

Members or Alternates Attending
Gary Dawson, Consumers Energy; Pat Staskiewicz, American Water Works Association (AWWA); Dave Hamilton, The Nature Conservancy; Gildo Tori, Ducks Unlimited; Grenetta Thomassey, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council; Frank Ettawageshik, United Tribes of Michigan; Tom Frazier, Michigan Townships Association; Laura Campbell, Michigan Farm Bureau; Bryan Burroughs, Michigan Trout Unlimited; Robert Whitesides, Kalamazoo River Watershed Council; Ben Russell, Southwest Michigan Water Resources Council (SWMWRC); Pat Norris, Michigan State University (MSU); Dave Lusch, MSU; Brian Eggers, Michigan Chamber of Commerce; Howard Reeves*, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); Frank Ruswick*, MSU; Abby Eaton*, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD); Jim Milne*, MDEQ Water Resources Division (WRD)

Members Absent:
Matt Evans, Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC); 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; Michael Newman, Michigan Aggregates Association; Jim Byrum, Michigan Agri-Business Association; George Carr, Michigan Ground Water Association; Steven Rice, Michigan Wetlands Association; Alan Kehew*, Western Michigan University; Jon Allan*, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Office of the Great Lakes (OGL); Tammy Newcomb*, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR); Margaret Bettenhausen *, Department of Attorney General (DAG)

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

Others Attending
Bonnie McGill, MSU; Brittany Tucker, MSU; Elle Gulotty, MSU; Laura Young, MSU.

Bryan Burroughs chaired the first portion of the meeting and thanked those who attended the field trip. He was thanked for coordinating the tour.

Program Related News
Jim Milne provided an update on the 2015 MDEQ fiscal budget. $3.9 million of the general fund have been allocated for "Water Quality and Use," which breaks down to the following:
           $1.1 million for wetlands program
           $500,000 for real-time beach monitoring
           $1 million for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program
           $250,000 for groundwater monitoring and water withdrawal assessment
           $1.1 million for non-point source issues and coastal programs

This is not an overall increase in funding for the Department as the majority is replacing reductions in federal and other funding sources. Furthermore, not all of the funding will go directly to the MDEQ Water Resources Division as some of it is for pass-through grants and the Office of the Great Lakes.

With regards to the water use program, the 2015 fiscal year budget totals $713,600, which breaks down as follows:
          $100,000 for the water withdrawal program from the $3.9 million general fund appropriation
          $372,000 in the regular appropriation line
          $241,200 from fees authorized to spend in fiscal year 2015

Robert Whitesides noted that his alternate, Steve Hamilton, received the 2014 Petoskey Prize for Environmental Leadership award from the Michigan Environmental Council for his work as a scientific advisor following the Kalamazoo oil spill.

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

Feedback on MDEQ Draft Field Procedure for Identifying Perennial Streams
The Council was asked for feedback on the draft MDEQ field procedure for identifying perennial streams. Dave Hamilton noted that the procedure appeared to be consistent with USGS standards. Bryan Burroughs commented on the weight of evidence approach. He suggested considering if additional layers of objective standards were needed to make a determination and recommended further documenting the process of how a determination is made (e.g., spelling out which factors are included in a determination and how they are weighted). Additional written comments should be submitted to Dina Klemans via email by August 1 (klemansd@michigan.gov).

Work Group Updates
Water Users
At a previous Council meeting, it was suggested that the work group look into the well-to-well conflict dispute resolution process as a potential option for water users committees (WUCs). Based on their investigations, high capacity users who impact another well are typically willing to fix the problem if they are contributing to it. However, solutions to well-to-well conflicts are usually short-term in nature (e.g., drilling a new domestic well) whereas users in a WUC may need to agree to longer term, higher cost solutions.

Mediation and facilitation will likely improve the WUC process. The work group identified several potential mediation programs outside of the private sector as potential options for WUCs. The Community Dispute Resolution Program may be the most suitable program. The mediators in the program must apply to participate and undergo training. While the majority of participants are volunteers, many of them come from legal backgrounds and their services would likely be less costly than hiring a traditional facilitator. Some of these centers also provide training to help groups self- facilitate. There is another suitable mediation program through the MSU Law School.

The work group is making progress on its charges related to voluntary measures and recommending tools and procedures for incorporating local water user agreements into MDEQ's decision-making process. They found that voluntary measures vary greatly between industries. Specific voluntary measures were summarized across various industries (e.g., agricultural irrigation, dairy farms, aggregates/mining, snow-making) in the following five categories: housekeeping, existing unit optimization, minor unit changes, unit replacement and resource re-use.

Issues still remain for the work group, including how adverse resource impacts (ARIs) are determined (i.e., ARIs observed in the accounting system versus those observed in the field). Pat Norris indicated ARIs observed in the accounting system could be the result of modifying stream types or receiving new information through a site specific review (SSR). Dave Hamilton added that unregistered users could be a third factor for constituting an ARI in the accounting system. Aside from these situations, ARIs should only occur when they are observed in the stream. Frank Ettawageshik noted that ARIs can occur outside of a stream environment. Pat Norris indicated that the work group would fine tune language within their recommendations for consistency.

Two different examples were highlighted of how voluntary measures could be treated given an ARI. If ARIs are observed in the accounting system or in the environment, MDEQ would convene all registered and permitted users. As noted in earlier meetings, unregistered and unpermitted users would likely be identified by WUC members, but a policy would need to be established for how to address this situation. Since the accounting database would already be oversubscribed for the catchment, requiring these individuals to register their use through the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT) is ineffective. All users would then discuss possible voluntary measures to adopt, and negotiate as to who will reduce their withdrawal and by how much. It is unclear what would happen if a user agreed to reduce withdrawals when their withdrawal is not hydrologically connected to an ARI stream. The work group proposed that a water use reduction coefficient be associated with each water conservation practice. This would be used to assess reductions in withdrawals by a certain percentage. They recognize that it will be difficult to develop the coefficients, and that this approach will require MDEQ to have a catalog of all voluntary measures and associated coefficients. Once the WUC reaches agreement, individuals who agreed to reduce their withdrawal would modify their associated registration or permit with MDEQ. It is unclear whether these reductions would be monitored. Finally, MDEQ would credit the accounting system for all of the reductions in the catchment. This example assumes that users would report reduction coefficients and that practices would be permanently adopted by users.

The second example only considered what would happen when an ARI is observed in the environment and used a different governance model than the first. Upon identifying an ARI in the field, a minimum requirement for streamflow would be established. From there, MDEQ would convene all registered and permitted users, with unregistered and unpermitted users later identified. Similar to the first example, requiring these individuals to register their use through the WWAT is not advisable since streamflow would already be too low. Users would determine which voluntary measures to adopt and reach agreement about who would reduce their use and by how much. The group would assume responsibility for assuring that minimum required streamflow is maintained. MDEQ would reset the accounting system balance to the Zone D threshold and both the Department and users would monitor streamflow. This example assumes that individuals would discern how adopting certain measures would affect withdrawals and inform other users of changes. It allows for some flexibility to manage the resource and periodically reallocate reductions in withdrawals among the group since certain types of users will likely have to tradeoff responsibilities to maintain the required streamflow from year to year. For example, if crop rotation is adopted as a voluntary measure, the reduction in water use may change year to year for an individual irrigator.

Selecting one of these approaches will exhibit a preference for technology-based or performance standards. Implementation, administration, and monitoring costs will likely differ between each approach as well. Tradeoffs regarding flexibility, certainty and who bears what costs will also need to be considered.

Some Council members were concerned about using the term observed ARI. Dave Hamilton sent the work group additional language to clarify that visible evidence of ARIs would likely indicate a stream is already beyond the point of an ARI threat. Bryan Burroughs commented that Part 327 defines ARIs as shifts in fish communities, and these discussions are more about predicted percent reductions in index flow. Pat Norris explained that the work group reviewed a case study in which a stream lake ecologist determined a minimum acceptable streamflow to maintain a healthy ecology within the system.

Technical Underpinnings
The group is examining index flow modifications and recently met with MDEQ. Their goal is to document a process that can be used to update index flows in the WWAT. Some members of their work group met with the Attorney General’s office to discuss legal concerns including whether or not the development of these processes would fall under the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act. Another legal matter discussed was the proper decision making authority for modifying certain aspects of the WWAT. When the statute was established, this authority resided with the Natural Resources Commission. It has since been given to the DNR Director, which may not be the preferred decision-making body. The work group is updating a matrix developed by the previous Water Resources Conservation Advisory Council which addresses some of these concerns including anticipated technical changes to the WWAT, the appropriate decision-making level for approving the changes, and a process to do so.

Environmental Monitoring
The work group is making progress on their groundwater work and has received presentations from the Illinois Geological Survey and the MDEQ Remediation section, which has a significant amount of data on paper for locations scattered across the state. They are identifying other available data sources that could be incorporated into a common database for MDEQ. Upcoming recommendations include groundwater research needs and a request to develop a common, publically accessible database that stores information in a useable format. Pat Norris recommended the work group contact Sherry Martin, who is working with Dave Hyndman at MSU to digitize streams for lamprey management.

Water Conservation
The work group completed their integrated report and waited to discuss it later on in the agenda.

Inland Lakes ARI
Responses from their survey of lake associations have tailed off. They have heard from 111 lakes, 58 of which have legal lake levels. Data is available for 12 of the 111 lakes, and 9 of those 12 have graphed lake levels over time. Dave Hamilton asked whether USGS data are available for lake levels. Jim Milne indicated that there are not.

The work group is continuing to develop a definition for ARIs in inland lakes. Wisconsin and Minnesota both have developed state standards. They are considering ways to apply designated uses to the definition of an inland lake ARI. The work group is finalizing the decision tree for identifying high risk lakes along with a process to utilize it. Indirect withdrawals are a problem of concern for the work group, assessing their impacts will remain a challenge.

Tier I Recommendations
Brian Eggers chaired the remainder of the meeting.

Streamflow Recommendations
The Environmental Monitoring work group revised their set of seven recommendations based on feedback at previous meetings and written comments. Recommendations 2, 5, 6 and 7 remained unchanged. Recommendation 1 had a minor change to refer to water withdrawals instead of water use.

Significant revisions were made to recommendations 3 and 4. Since the Council had previously reviewed these recommendations in detail, consensus was sought on each recommendation. Consensus was reached on all of the recommendations, barring edits that were suggested at the meeting and written comments that needed to be incorporated from Dave Hamilton. These comments are summarized below.

Recommendation 3, which dealt with protocols and standards for the collection and use of streamflow data in the water use program generated the most discussion at previous meetings. The work group explained that they are not seeking to layout the protocols given time and resource limitations. The revised recommendation included more detailed suggestions for tiers of data, transparency and stakeholder involvement. Dave Hamilton indicated he sent the work group detailed suggestions to further clarify points within the recommendation. During this discussion, it became clear that several suggested edits would fall under Tier II discussions. Consensus was reached for the bolded text of this recommendation, with specific details to be further refined for Tier II.

The fourth recommendation was modified to include a more specific description of when to incorporate new data that would prompt MDEQ to change a WWAT parameter for a water management area. Dave Hamilton recommended fine tuning the language to distinguish that a parameter such as index flows could not be changed with a point in time measurement.

Forming Water Users Groups and Providing Technical Information
Pat Norris presented changes to the five recommendations presented at the previous Council meeting. Consensus was reached on all five recommendations barring suggested changes presented at the meeting. Changes made since June and suggested edits from July are highlighted below.

A paragraph was added under the Scenario 2 Findings section that identified an additional situation where Scenario 2 recommendations would apply. The situation would occur when MDEQ discovers that available water for a water management area is oversubscribed based on the WWAT accounting system.

Two paragraphs were added later in the Scenario 2 Findings section to incorporate feedback received from Council members about challenges in distinguishing an ARI in the accounting system versus one observed in the field. However, the work group is convinced that demonstrating an ARI in the field will significantly increase the success of a WUC.

Other changes included moving the list of technical resources under Resource Needs of Water Users Groups into a table at the end of the recommendations document and providing clarification to the fourth recommendation that further distinguished between the two scenarios in which the work group recommends MDEQ convene a WUC. Jim Milne added that on page 1, under Water Resources Assessment and Education Committees, "cold transitional" needed to be added after zone B.

Water Conservation Report
The Water Conservation work group presented an integrated report of findings, recommendations and other work products. In introducing the report, it was noted that Michigan water use is not driven by issues of scarcity. However, Michigan has an opportunity to develop an integrated program of water conservation, and overcoming the perception of water abundance will be critical to the successful implementation of such a program. Furthermore, the work group supports a conservation program that is developed collaboratively. The report lists recommendations and findings under each respective charge to the work group.

The work group was charged with evaluating water use trends and making recommendations for future water conservation and efficiency activities based on expected trends. Four recommendations were provided to address this charge. The first deals with increasing Michigan’s capacity to track water usage, including the practice of conservation measures. The recommendation includes the development of datasets to track use and progress by each sector. State specific objectives referenced in recommendation E.1. of the report should inform the development of the datasets and highlight what should be tracked. The work group found that there are insufficient data to project future use from historical records. Pat Norris encouraged the work group to explore sectorial demand forecasts instead of trying to predict usage based on past demand.

The second recommendation calls for additional focus on conservation and efficiency in the irrigation sector based on water use trends, with continued and expanded outreach and training to foster adoption of Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs). Laura Campbell noted that data from the National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) demonstrate that agriculture is using less water to produce the same amount of corn, along with increased efficiency of use. Frank Ruswick commented that this recommendation is not a value judgment but a response to the increasing trend in use.

The third recommendation deals with incentivizing water conservation and efficiency for public sector entities by rewarding those who implement conservation and efficiency measures when they apply for state funded water infrastructure projects. The fourth recommendation seeks to enhance Michigan efforts that benefit water supply (e.g., green infrastructure, water reuse) through MDEQ expansion of programs and review of associated regulations to support such activities.

Their second charge was to review water conservation practices in other states and countries, particularly in the Great Lakes region, and propose updates to Michigan’s conservation practices. They found that Midwest states are split between voluntary and regulatory programs. Three recommendations were developed for this charge. The first recommended that MDEQ undertake a process to update current generic and sector-specific conservation measures, with direct involvement by multi-interest stakeholder groups and the public. The work group felt their membership did not represent all of the needed parties to complete such a task.

The second recommendation calls for a revised Michigan water conservation program that further informs and encourages water conservation and assesses and documents the nature and extent of water conservation practices by large quantity water (LQW) users.

The work group found that few data are available on the extent of adopted water conservation practices. Their third recommendation proposes a formal process to assess which practices are adopted and consists of three components. The first is to require all LQW users to conduct a water audit program and develop a water conservation program based on the results of the audit, and submit a summary of both efforts to MDEQ or MDARD. The second suggests that MDEQ and MDARD develop templates for water audits and conservation plans through a multi-stakeholder process. The last component suggests that MDEQ and MDARD conduct reviews of the percentage of submissions and implementation of plans and report results.

Laura Campbell was uncomfortable with requiring the agricultural community to conduct water audits since agricultural users already have other similar reporting requirements. This would represent an added burden for the user. A water conservation report is required for annual water use reporting to MDARD, that would likely already serve this purpose.

Brian Eggers indicated that this would also pose a challenge to the business community. In many instances, businesses are already conducting audits and reports to save on utility costs. Furthermore, there may be confidentiality issues regarding trade secrets for water conservation and efficiency practices. The work group recognizes the sensitivity of this recommendation and asked if Council members had alternatives to assess implementation of water conservation measures.

Pat Norris asked about what would be assessed through these audits. State specific goals and objectives need to be developed for Michigan, as referenced in recommendation E.1. of the report. Those objectives would inform what would be targeted through an audit and conservation program.

Jim Milne applauded the work group’s efforts and requested that the work group discuss and include the following items as future work for the Council: 

How can the self-certification process used by LQW users to document that they are following water conservation measures, either in conjunction with annual water use reporting or in response to receiving a Zone C SSR authorization, be improved to provide more meaningful data?

How can the annual water use reporting process be improved so that the completeness and accuracy of reports are increased? 

Metering high capacity water usage at the pump is a requirement in other states and something that has been briefly discussed in other work groups. Despite the obvious challenges in adopting and implementing such an approach in Michigan, the practice has several benefits and warrants further discussion by the Council.

There was not enough time left on the agenda to go over the remainder of the report. Members were requested to continue to review the report and come prepared in August for additional discussion. Comments should be sent to the work group.

August 19 Council Field Trip
Laura Campbell and Ben Russell were working with a planning committee in southwest Michigan for the August field trip. The tour will start at 9:00 AM at the St. Joseph ISD and include various stops around St. Joe and Branch Counties, highlighting irrigation and efficiency techniques, processing, and stream gaging. Lunch will be provided to attendees.

Other Business
There was no other business discussed.

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

Next Meeting
The August 19 Council meeting will be begin at 1:00 PM at the St. Joseph ISD in Centerville.