August 19, 2014 Meeting Notes

1:00– 4:00 P.M.
St. Joseph County ISD
62445 Shimmel Rd
Centreville, MI 49032

Members or Alternates Attending
Gary Dawson, Consumers Energy; Molly Robinson, American Water Works Association (AWWA); Dave Hamilton, The Nature Conservancy; James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council; Frank Ettawageshik, United Tribes of Michigan; Wm. Scott Brown, Michigan Lake and Stream Associations; Tom Frazier, Michigan Townships Association; Laura Campbell, Michigan Farm Bureau; Mike Wenkel, Michigan Agri- Business Association; George Carr, Michigan Ground Water Association; Steve Hamilton, 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; Ralph Haefner*, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); Alan Kehew*, Western Michigan University; Frank Ruswick*, MSU Institute of Water Research (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); Abby Eaton*, MDARD; Tammy Newcomb*, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR); Margaret Bettenhausen *, Department of Attorney General (DAG); Dina Klemans*, MDEQ Water Resources Division (WRD)

Members Absent
Matt Evans, Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC); Gildo Tori, Ducks Unlimited; Charles Scott, Michigan Golf Course Owners; Michael Stafford, Cranbrook Institute of Science; Andy Such, Michigan Manufacturers Association; Michael Newman, Michigan Aggregates Association; Bryan Burroughs, Michigan Trout Unlimited; Steven Rice, Michigan Wetlands Association.

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

Others Attending
Angela DeVries, Michigan Oil and Gas Association; Colleen Albright, Branch County Farm Bureau; Aaron Rice, Prairie River Users Group; Kim Kerr, Michigan Farm Bureau; Ed Knetchman, Berrien County Farm Bureau; Marcy Colclough, SWMPC; Eric Ruckert, KECK Consulting; Bill Piepkow, Calhoun County Farm Bureau; Michael Collins, Abbott; Bonnie McGill, MSU; Lyndon Kelley, MSU Extension; Bruce Mackellar, MSU Extension; Jack Wittman, INTERA; Todd Weinberg, Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau; Larry Walton, St. Joe County Farm Bureau; John Proos, State Senator; Tim Schubert, Tritium Inc.; Brian AcMoody, Branch County Farm Bureau; Brock Feltman, MSU; Mat Lautenberger, MSU; Larry Julian, Julian Vail; Val Vail-Shirey, Julian Vail; Jim Milne, MDEQ WRD; Shayna Petit, MSU; Laura Young, MSU.

Brian Eggers chaired the entire meeting. He thanked the St. Joseph and Branch County Farm Bureaus, along with the numerous other planners, sponsors and speakers for their generous hospitality. Michael Collins with Abbott Nutrition was invited to welcome the Council. Abbott, a nutrition science, research and development company, has been a part of the Sturgis community since 1948. Their high capacity wells have been registered through the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT) and the company takes a proactive approach toward water conservation. In 2009, the company established a goal to reduce water usage by 20% over the next 7 years. Mr. Collins appreciated the opportunity to speak and thanked the Council for coming to the area.

Program Related News
MDEQ has been working with MSU to develop a new version of the WWAT, which went live on August 8. The tool has been transferred from MSU to the State of Michigan, allowing for increased system security and the ability for MDEQ to update and maintain the WWAT in house. A number of interface improvements were added to WWAT including faster performance, streamlined process for registering, better aerial imagery resolution, removal of unnecessary popup windows, and functionality to query water availability in real-time. The new version also allows users to more smoothly modify existing registrations and prompts users to verify entered data to improve accuracy of submissions. The update has not changed any of the behind the scenes operations of the WWAT. Jim Milne offered to demo the new version at the September meeting if time allowed.

MDEQ is also working on an outreach strategy and will hold a webinar tutorial on how to use the updated WWAT, which will be posted online. Jim Milne encouraged Council members to contact him about how to best conduct outreach with their constituents. The new web address is Users visiting the old link will be redirected to the new site. Dave Lusch encouraged MDEQ to consider populating the "SSR" field in the WWAT to indicate whether or not available water in a water management area (WMA) represents the 50% safety factor value.

The MDNR Fisheries Division has $1.2 million in state funding for aquatic habitat research projects, with an emphasis on hydrology. Collaborative research efforts are strongly encouraged and any local, state, federal, tribal, or non-governmental organization can apply. Three page pre-proposals are due August 29. A 10% match is required. Applications are listed on the MDNR Fisheries website.

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

Statewide Water Planning - an example from Indiana– Jack Wittman, INTERA Inc.
Jack Wittman has worked in the field of water supply and utilities for the last 30 years and shared his recent groundwater availability work. He is the Operations Chief of the Bloomington, IN, INTERA office. INTERA, established in the 1970s, specializes in addressing environmental, water resources, and waste isolation concerns.

The majority of his talk focused on a recent study in Indiana examining available water resources and predicted water use demands. Indiana is developing a plan to address future water use needs given population growth and increases in sector-specific uses. The aim of the study was not to develop a water supply plan but rather produce a proactive report that would create incentives within the legislature to manage water resources more effectively. It was noted that Indiana’s water resources are vastly different than Michigan’s, particularly in the southern regions. Water supplies are abundant in the north, marginal in the center, and very limited in the south. Some data used in the analysis came from well logs that were processed for use in the study. This approach took advantage of opportunistic information that already existed rather than developing a new program to collect it.

Indiana only has about 30 active groundwater monitoring sites in the state. However, it has been collecting monthly water use information for all high capacity (over 100,000 gpd) water users since 1988. The majority of these users are clustered in the north. On an annual basis, each water user completes a monthly water use form for each well in their respective facilities and submits it to the state’s DNR. While Indiana has over 25 years of records, it was challenging to determine trends and predict future use with the data. He noted the desire to understand how fast and where use is changing, and what the drivers are for those changes.

There were several aspects that were investigated in the study. The study estimated groundwater storage depths for each county, examined water use by sector by county, withdrawals taken from surface versus groundwater, and annual average use among other items. It was noted that industrial and energy uses were removed from annual average use to produce a clearer trend line of water use for each county. However, the study recognizes that past use does not necessarily imply future use. The biggest predicted changes in use occurred near Indianapolis and the highly irrigated portions of the state. It was noted that groundwater use is often seasonal and increasing.

The study also looked at groundwater recharge and found that groundwater is being withdrawn at a rate that is equal to the amount being recharged in the middle portions and edges of the state.  Taking this analysis a step further, they mapped anticipated future use and available storage to identify areas of the state where future water use may exceed available supplies.

A number of approaches other states are using to assess usage were shared. Florida spends $1 billion on water resources every year and has water management districts. Minnesota recently passed a referendum to dedicate 1/8 of their 1% sales tax to water supply planning, which totals about $60 million/year in state revenue. Of this plan, $45 million over a 10 year period will be assigned to Minnesota’s geological survey to map aquifers in the state. Both Oklahoma and Georgia spend about $10 million a year on their water resources programs. Texas uses a statewide planning model that divides the state into major aquifer areas. Each area has its own groundwater availability model that is updated every five years.

The report recommends using natural planning areas (e.g., by watershed) and increasing the adoption of conservation practices. In the fall, the report will be presented to the legislature as the state moves forward with its statewide planning initiative. He noted the statewide planning effort will make Indiana more competitive in business.

There are large clusters of irrigations near the Michigan border in the St. Joe watershed. It was mentioned anecdotally that in 2012 in particular, many high capacity users in Michigan complained about being restricted by Michigan’s water use program whereas neighbors in Indiana faced little restrictions. It was asked how much communication is going on between Indiana and Michigan, given that a particular sector is not regulated in the same way between states. Mr. Wittman noted this presents a dilemma for both sides, and that Indiana currently does not have the same kind of decision making tools as Michigan. He expects that Indiana will consider other decision making processes to manage water, perhaps similar to Michigan, but taking it a step further to have regional planning models. A program built on regional planning and priorities with state supported technology would run similar to Georgia’s and Oklahoma’s, about $10 million. Tribal nations are going to complete a separate but simultaneous planning process as Indiana.

Mr. Wittman thanked the Council for the opportunity to present and commended Michigan for its efforts in pulling together such a diverse set of stakeholders. Attendees were encouraged to write or call Mr. Wittman with questions.  

Council Meeting Schedule
At the last Leadership Committee meeting, it was determined that it would not be possible to complete all Tier I recommendations by August. The September 16 meeting will be the last opportunity for Tier I discussion and consensus. The October 21 meeting will be used to discuss Tier II recommendations. In order to complete the large volume of work by the December deadline, both the September 16 and October 21 meetings were extended to all day meetings. Furthermore, an additional meeting in early November will be scheduled to allow additional time to discuss Tier II recommendations.

Revised Tier II recommendation guidance
The Leadership Committee also proposed a revised approach for Tier II recommendations, and a modified guidance document was distributed to the Council prior to the meeting. As a refresher, the Council agreed at the beginning of the year to use a two-tiered process for making recommendations. The first tier highlights the issues, background information, and general recommendation, which are brought to the Council for consensus. Recommendations achieving consensus are brought back for Tier II discussions.

Originally, Tier II guidance included prioritization of recommendations. However, it was the Leadership Committee’s suggestion that prioritization would be an unproductive task for various reasons. First, work groups internally prioritized their work items, and secondly, members will likely all have varying perspectives on high priority items. Additionally, many recommendations will be comparing apples to oranges. Some also felt it would not be appropriate to impose priorities on the Department. This is the only change to the Tier II guidance (eliminating discussion of prioritization). Tier II recommendations should still consider how all recommendations fit together, whether or not they are still a good idea, and consider implementation considerations.

Draft Council Final Report- background section
The background section of the Council’s final report was drafted along with a general outline of other sections (e.g., recommendation placeholders, appendices) and distributed to the Council prior to the meeting. Laura Young will be compiling and formatting the report. Pat Norris asked whether complimentary recommendations would be addressed internally amongst work groups or as the report is compiled. Brian Eggers commented that there is an opportunity in the report to meld similar or dependent recommendations, and Dina Klemans added that identifying the best approach may be more evident once Tier II discussions have taken place. Laura Young requested that work groups send her revisions, and in particular, to notify her of work group membership changes.

Work Group Updates
Inland Lakes ARI
Laura Campbell shared an updated decision tree for assessing what kind of inland lakes may be at higher risk for adverse resource impacts (ARIs) based on their characteristics. This can be used by the Department to identify lakes that may need additional monitoring.

She also reviewed a recommendation that will be finalized for the September 16 meeting. It proposes installing staff gages on inland lakes and ponds throughout the state. Installing staff gages could be prioritized on medium and high risk lakes from the decision tree. Staff gages would need to be annually resurveyed to confirm the correct position or potentially moved out of place due to ice cover. This could be a ready addition to the MiCorps program, and private groups may want to have a gage installed. One impetus for this recommendation is the overwhelming lack of available inland lake data and the costly realities of collecting data using methods like LIDAR. Gary Dawson noted that in past experiences, staff gages often were vandalized or stolen.

As part of discussions, it was noted that it is very difficult to establish a relationship with what the natural variability of a lake may be. The variation could be very large, regardless of withdrawals. An additional recommendation will provide a more refined definition of what an ARI is for inland lakes resulting from a direct withdrawal. It will assess impact based on whether or not a water body’s water level meets its designated uses, similar to the way water quality is assessed.

Water Users
Pat Norris discussed a few issues the work group is working through relating to their recommendations. The first deals with the unclear incentives for water user committee (WUC) members to cooperate in the process. The work group strongly feels that WUCs will be much more successful if members of these groups agree that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. At previous meetings, the work group presented the idea of "minimum streamflow" and some Council members were uncomfortable with that language. Tammy Newcomb met with the group and discussed that "minimum streamflow" may not necessarily maintain the functionality of the stream ecosystem and a term such as "environmental flows" would be more appropriate.

The work group has also discussed the need for refined regional flow modeling to support the work of a WUC, but questions remain as to who will do the work, how it will be paid for, and how such efforts would be accepted and compatible with MDEQ guidelines. Given these challenges, the work group has considered the possibility of establishing a "scientific liaison" position to facilitate interactions between WUCs and MDEQ. The work group has not yet determined an appropriate location for such a position or what the specific responsibilities may be.

Regarding resources to support facilitation services for WUCs, the work group previously identified potential programs that would be less costly than hiring a private facilitator. These services still would not be free. The work group is brainstorming ways to possibly subsidize facilitation services using fees from the Water Use Program.

Discussed at the previous meeting, the work group is thinking through options to coordinate the actions of individual water users participating in a WUC with requirements by MDEQ. In other words, if voluntary measures are undertaken and an ARI is eliminated, how are these actions reflected by the records MDEQ maintains. Will it only affect individual withdrawals or connect to the WUC as a whole? The work groups sees benefit in providing flexibility to this process by allowing individual water users to make changes on an annual basis and share the burden for meeting the cumulative withdrawal requirement (to prevent an ARI) over the years. Questions remain as to whether individuals would be required to notify MDEQ of these adjustments, or whether the Department would work with them as a group and only adjust the cumulative withdrawal. The latter provides more flexibility and minimizes administration costs.

However, Jim Milne indicated that Part 327 registrations and annual water use reporting are currently set up to deal with individual properties, not cumulative withdrawals. Regulating the cumulative withdrawals for a watershed implies maintaining some sort of average stream flow that could allow higher depletions in some reaches within the watershed as long as the average doesn’t cause an ARI. He did not think that Part 327 would allow this as currently written.  

At the July meeting, they also talked about two different models that could be utilized when WUC members agree to certain voluntary measures. However, those considerations did not address the issue of who shares what portion of the burden. Recommendations on this will be presented in September.

Jim Milne commented that impacts to streamflow from any one water user depend in part on the withdrawal’s proximity to the stream. If MDEQ adjusts withdrawals given adopted voluntary measures, it would be pertinent to determine that those adjustments be enough to prevent the ARI in the accounting system. Two-way communication between MDEQ and a WUC will be essential, especially if back calculations or other considerations need to be made by MDEQ. Any revisions to streamflow would need to be communicated back to a WUC. Dave Hamilton commented that it would be critical for MDEQ to be involved in this process and establish clear communication. He did not see a way MDEQ could avoid being closely involved with WUC activities and supported the idea of a scientific liaison.

Technical Underpinnings
Dave Hamilton discussed upcoming recommendations, including modifying existing processes MDEQ uses to update or fix technical issues with the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT). This recommendation will likely suggest MDEQ develop procedures and criteria using a multi-stakeholder engagement process. The work group will also propose recommendations on updating or using alternative models in the WWAT.

It was emphasized that the water withdrawal assessment process was designed to be updated on a regular basis, which is one of the reasons why the Council was reformed. The work group plans to make a recommendation on how to take the process a step further by examining the potential to incorporate regional groundwater models. Todd Feenstra was invited to attend their upcoming meetings.

George Carr noted there were a number of issues that had yet to be resolved. In particular, he called for the need for an improved transparent SSR process. He also stated concerns about the membership of WUCs since they do not include those who want to register for a withdrawal but are unable to do so because a WMA is oversubscribed.

Tammy Newcomb noted that refined regional modeling has come up in the Water Users group and asked whether guidelines for conducting such modeling would be part of the work group’s recommendations. Written guidance would not only ensure any modeling done by a WUC is accepted by the Department but would also help other agencies investing in such efforts. Dave Hamilton agreed this would be useful but that the work group would not have enough time to flesh out the guidelines.

Environmental Monitoring
Draft groundwater recommendations were introduced to the Council. The first of which called for the development of a database that compiles data related to geology and aquifer characteristics in a common format and is viewable by the public. Organizations collecting relevant data would be allowed to submit information to the database if it meets state standards. A wealth of groundwater related data have been collected by various organizations, but are often in different formats or difficult to obtain. For example, the MDEQ Remediation Division has groundwater records that span 40 years in some cases, but are on paper and have very specific formats.

The second recommendation involves MDEQ developing protocols and standards for the collection of groundwater data. These would then be made publically available on the MDEQ website. The third recommendation deals with prioritizing the collection of groundwater data around areas anticipated to have a large number of large quantity water withdrawals. The fourth recommendation calls for integrating available data into the water withdrawal assessment process. Data could also be used to generate better decision-making tools or update existing models. Their last recommendation deals with fully supporting collaboration between the Michigan Geological Survey and water well drillers on new tools and training programs to improve data entered into Wellogic.

Water Conservation
The work group did not have an update but continued to review their Tier I recommendations described below.

Tier I Recommendations
Water Conservation Final Report
The remaining recommendations were presented to the Council from the work group’s integrated report. One of their charges tasked them with evaluating the Alliance for Water Efficiency Scorecard or other metrics for use in Michigan. It is a nationwide assessment of water management programs that provides letter grades to states based on a specific set of questions. For several reasons outlined in their report, the work group does not recommend using this scorecard for Michigan as a whole. They were unable to find alternative metrics for assessment. The work group recommended that metrics be developed based upon state specific goals and objectives, referenced for development in a later recommendation.

The work group also called for the state to coordinate a statewide effort to promote wise water use among all sectors. It can be difficult to overcome inertia in the public in terms of a need and rationale for water conservation given water abundance in Michigan. Furthermore, a number of discrete programs are being conducted across the state to encourage conservation. These efforts would benefit from a statewide message. It was noted during discussion that Canada has implemented a successful program linking to energy use. There are additional ways to tie water conservation to other goals. The work group did not include specific motivating factors or content of the messaging (e.g., economic bottom-line) in their recommendations. The work group is in favor of conducting research on the types of messages and channels to which individuals and organizations would be most receptive.

Another charge tasked the work group with developing proposed responses to public comments received on Michigan’s Water Conservation and Efficiency Program. The Council decided last year that the majority of comments would be addressed by the work of the Council as a whole. The work group identified three comments that appeared outside of the scope of the Council and developed recommended language for the proposed response to those comments, though noting that MDEQ can modify the language as needed.

The first comment dealt with Michigan adopting state specific goals and objectives. The proposed response indicates agreement with the comment and in doing so through a multi-stakeholder process. It was asked what would constitute a statewide goal. A specific reduction in water usage was given as an example.

The second comment dealt with guiding the program toward long term sustainability including climate change considerations. The proposed response indicates agreement and that the work of the Council is one example of this. With regards to climate change, the work group referenced a report by the International Joint Commission that proposed using current data on historic climate variability over the next 30 years to guide management in the Great Lakes. Jon Allan suggested distinguishing between program sustainability and water use sustainability.

The third comment called for Michigan to include current users in programs encouraging the adoption of water conservation measures. The proposed response indicates agreement and notes equal rights and responsibilities of users given Michigan’s riparian and reasonable use doctrine.

Another charge to the work group tasked them to explore a periodic assessment process for conservation practices. The work group proposed conducting a periodic assessment of the program every five years and linking it data collection within the system. The work group was also charged with identifying information sources that could be utilized on a regional scale for assisting WUGs. Several information sources were identified and are included as an appendix in the report.

Their last recommendation called for the State to consult with Tribal Governments twice a year regarding the management of water resources in the state. It was discussed how to manage one connected system if tribal lands are not subject to state regulation in a watershed while other properties in that same watershed are subject to Part 327. Frank Ettawageshik noted this was discussed at length when the Compact was developed. There are 185 tribes and first nations in the Great Lakes Basin, and having an agreement between 8 states, 2 provinces and 185 tribes was not feasible. To resolve this, a treaty was signed in which tribes and first nations developed a parallel system to that of the Great Lakes states and provinces. A tribal caucus supported the Compact even though it was not a signing party and lobbied for its passage. A number of accords were passed with the State of Michigan to provide a built-in administrative mechanism allowing for discussions between Tribal Governments and the State, and regular meetings are held.

Other Business
State Senator John Proos was in attendance and thanked the Council for coming to southwest Michigan and for the effort put in by the hosts. Larry Walton thanked everyone for attending the tour and meeting and indicated that attendees were welcome to take home flowers and local produce. Brian Eggers thanked Larry and the other hosts for their gracious hospitality and noted southwest Michigan’s incomparable involvement, interest, and feedback in the work of the Council and the water use program.

Public Comment on non-agenda items
Marcy Colclough with the Southwest Michigan Regional Planning Commission (SWRPC) noted that she is excited to live and work in southwest Michigan. She has the fortunate opportunity to work with state agencies and growing public/private partnerships for water use and quality issues. In particular, the SWRPC submitted a pre-proposal to the new Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnerships Program, which was one of 233 accepted out of 600 in the nation.

Next meetings
    September 16, 9:00-4:00 PM – Dow Diamond, Midland, MI
    October 21, 9:00-4:00 PM – Michigan Manufacturer’s Association, Lansing, MI
    November 3, 9:00-4:00 PM – Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Lansing, MI
    November 18, 12:00-4:00 PM
    December 16, 12:00-4:00 PM