October 26, 2016 Meeting Notes

October 26, 2016, Meeting Notes


Michigan Farm Bureau Headquarters
7373 West Saginaw Highway, Lansing, Michigan 48917

Members or Alternates Attending:

  • Brian Eggers: Michigan Chamber of Commerce
  • Dr. Gary Dawson, Tom Stanko: Consumers Energy 
  • Robert Whitesides: Kalamazoo River Watershed Council
  • Doug Needham: Michigan Aggregates Association
  • Jim Johnson for Jamie Clover Adams*: Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD)
  • Dina Klemans*: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)
  • Jim Goodheart for Jon Allan*: MDEQ, Office of the Great Lakes
  • James Clift: Michigan Environmental Council
  • Carl Bednarski, Laura Campbell: Michigan Farm Bureau
  • Charles Scott: Michigan Golf Course Owners Association
  • Mike Frederick: Michigan Ground Water Association
  • Dr. Dave Lusch, Frank Ruswick, Dr. Jon Bartholic,* Dr. Patricia Norris: Michigan State University (MSU)
  • Pat Staskiewicz: Michigan Section, American Water Works Association
  • Thomas Frazier: Michigan Townships Association
  • Bryan Burroughs: Michigan Trout Unlimited
  • Ben Russell: Southwest Michigan Water Resources Council
  • Mike Wenkel: The Michigan Potato Industry Commission
  • Dave Hamilton, Rich Bowman: The Nature Conservancy
  • Dr. Ralph Haefner*: United States Geological Survey (USGS)

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

Members Absent:

  • Michael Stafford: Cranbrook Institute of Science
  • Gildo Tori: Ducks Unlimited
  • Jim Byrum: Michigan Agri-Business Association
  • Peter Manning,*: Michigan Department of Attorney General
  • Jon Allan*: MDEQ, Office of the Great Lakes
  • Dr. Tammy Newcomb*: Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR)
  • John Yellich*: Michigan Geological Survey
  • Wm. Scott Brown: Michigan Lake and Stream Associations
  • Andy Such: Michigan Manufacturers Association
  • Michigan United Conservation Clubs
  • Steven Rice: Michigan Wetlands Association
  • Frank Ettawageshik: United Tribes of Michigan

Others Attending

  • Trent Hilding: Attorney, Farmer
  • Douglas Bloom: Bloom Dairy Inc.
  • Brian AcMoody: Branch County Farm Bureau
  • Jeremiah Asher: MSU, Institute of Water Research
  • Jim Milne, Leah Clark, Andy LeBaron, Mario Fusco: MDEQ
  • Mark Sweatman: MDNR
  • Larry Walton: Michigan Farm Bureau
  • Janet Peterson: R & W Peterson Farms
  • Aaron Rice, Val Vail-Shirey: Prairie River Users Group
  • Abby Eaton: MDARD
  • Todd Feenstra: Tritium Inc.
  • Chris Hoard: USGS
  1. Welcome

a. Review Agenda

Brian Eggers chaired the meeting and thanked Michigan Farm Bureau for hosting the meeting.  All attendees introduced themselves.  The agenda was reviewed.

b. Other Housekeeping Items

Dina Klemans announced the following changes to MDEQ staff:

  • Heidi Grether, Director (new)
  • Bob Wagner, Program Deputy Director (new)
  • Teresa Seidel, Chief, Water Resources Division (new)
  • Keith Creagh (previous Director) returned to the MDNR

Jim Goodheart, OGL, presented a general update on the Water Strategy:

  • The Water Strategy is a 30-year plan that takes a “roadmap” approach to responsibly guide protection, restoration, curriculum development, collaborative actions, and economic development of water resources in Michigan.
  • The Strategy was developed by the MDEQ-OGL, in collaboration with the MDEQ, MDNR, MDARD, and Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
  • The Water Strategy’s 9 action areas address different priorities to achieve a shared vision of water resource management and stewardship:
  1. Protect and restore aquatic ecosystems
  2. Ensure clean and safe waters
  3. Create vibrant waterfronts
  4. Support water-based recreation
  5. Promote water-based economies
  6. Invest in infrastructure
  7. Monitor water quality
  8. Build governance tools
  9. Inspire stewardship for clean water
  • As part of that release, Governor Snyder defined five top priorities on which he and his administration will focus:
  • Ensure safe drinking water for all Michiganders;
  • Achieve a 40 percent phosphorous reduction in the Western Lake Erie basin;
  • Prevent the introduction of new invasive species and control established populations;
  • Support investments in commercial and recreational harbors; and
  • Develop and implement Michigan’s water trails system.
  • The Strategy includes a total of 75 recommendations.
  • In addition, the strategy incorporates all of the water use advisory council recommendations on water conservation in an appendix on the Web site.
  • Given the complexity of the document, the final Water Strategy was been rolled out in a series of 4 parts to create a focus on the goals and recommendations within each chapter. 
  • The MDEQ-OGL released the final part of the water strategy at a stream monitoring event hosted by the Friends of the Shiawassee River in Owosso last Tuesday with several of our partners.
  • The MDEQ-OGL is transitioning the steering committee into the Interdepartmental Water Team to create continuity from development to implementation.  In addition, the MDEQ‑OGL will be expanding the group to include additional representatives from state agencies to cover the breadth of the lead state agency actors identified in the strategy (MDARD, MDEQ, MDEQ-OGL, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Department of Transportation, MDE, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services).
  • We anticipate the Interdepartmental Water Team taking a similar approach that the department used to prioritize the recommendations of the Water Use Advisory Council.  Lead agencies were identified and an impact/effort analysis was conducted for each of the recommendations.

The MDEQ-OGL would like to continue to engage the Water Cabinet for advice and input on implementation priorities, discuss implementation efforts, identify opportunities for collaboration, and assess and evaluate progress achieved.  Additional organizations may need to be engaged to address any gaps in interests represented. We plan to host meetings of the Water Cabinet and state agencies 1-2 times a year that will be open to the public with meeting agendas and minutes to create more transparency and accountability.

  1. Program-Related News

a. Members

Bryan Burroughs acknowledged new people in attendance and asked that they provide contact information to Denise Page.

  • Gary Dawson, Consumers Energy, announced his retirement and introduced Tom Stanko, Consumers’ Water Director, who will represent utilities.
  • Laura Campbell, Michigan Farm Bureau, said that producers in southwest and south central Michigan struggle to get through the site‑specific review and application process.

b. Quality of Life Agencies

Jim Johnson, MDARD, stated that 636 Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) verifications occurred in 2016.  The MDARD is working with Ohio and Indiana on how to reduce reactive phosphorus.

Mark Sweatman, MDNR, stated that the Great Lakes Water Trails Initiatives are working well.

c. Program Statistics – Jim Milne, MDEQ

Jim presented year 7 (July 2015-July 2016) Water Use Program statistics.  He went over some of the figures in the draft report.  Figure 6 shows the SSR average time for completion is 18 business days, down from 26 business days in year 6, although the DEQ increased the percentage of SSRs completed within 10 business days to 45% (up from 27% in year 6), the statutory 10-business-day deadline is not feasible, especially in depleted watersheds.  MDEQ staff continue to work with the applicants. 

Mark Sweatman asked whether SSR denials are clustered or spread out and are there instances where horizontal wells affect streams?  DEQ did deny several SSR requests in the Pigeon River watershed in Ottawa County.  Shallow horizontal wells have a greater potential to impact stream flow than deeper vertical wells.  There are a lot of horizontal wells in Ottawa and Muskegon Counties.  The USGS is developing a groundwater model to evaluate the effects of horizontal wells on stream flow.

Laura Campbell asked where the state is regarding bedrock registrations.  Andy LeBaron confirmed that the automatic bedrock pass feature in the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT) was eliminated, as recommended by the council (recommendation TU 2.3).  Until the bedrock aquifer properties can be updated in the WWAT, the WWAT uses glacial aquifer properties.  Site-specific reviews use available bedrock aquifer properties, when appropriate.  Jim Milne noted that SSRs can be authorized (a “geology pass”) based on the well driller’s field notes indicating that the well was completed in a bedrock or glacial aquifer that is hydraulically isolated from surface water by overlying clay layers.

Dave Lusch spoke about aquifers – bedrock transmissivity.  He also said that in Ottawa County, overpumping drew up hypersaline groundwater from deeper formations, which killed a farmer’s soybean crop.

  1. Public Comment on Agenda Items

There was no public input at this time.

  1. Progress Update

a. Overview - Dina Klemans, MDEQ

Dina noted that the MDNR is developing guidance for bathymetric mapping of inland lakes and revising stream temperature classifications.

The MDEQ and USGS are still conducting stream flow measurements in Southwest Michigan, and also the headwaters of the AuSable and Manistee Rivers in the northern Lower Peninsula. 

The MDEQ, through MiCorps, awarded grant monies for two volunteer stream flow monitoring projects:  (1) Betsie River and Crystal Lake (Benzie County); and (2) the Sturgeon River, a subwatershed of the Menominee River (Dickinson County).

The Michigan Geological Survey (MGS) has a grant to map the glacial geology in two quadrangles in Cass County.  The MGS also received a $500,000 grant from the State of Michigan to survey stakeholders on geology mapping needs.  A survey was sent out in September.  The MGS will develop a long-term strategy and also include demonstration projects.  The grant ends in 2018.  John Yellich will provide an update at the next council meeting.

The MDNR and MDEQ's Office of the Great Lakes are helping the USGS fund geology mapping in Cass County as a pilot project.  The MGS received a one-time funding of $500,000.  The funds will be used to establish the program and processes.  The program began in June 2016 and will run through 2017 (or beginning of 2018).

Jim Goodheart stated Tribal governments will play more of a role in water use issues.

Jim Johnson - the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, is collecting elevation data using light detection and ranging (LiDAR) to map the topography of Michigan.  The data will be published on a public domain Web site.

Mark Sweatman – MDNR, Office of Minerals Management – They are developing a program with Michigan Oil and Gas Association to allow surface geophysical surveys on more state‑owned lands, not just on lands with oil and gas leases.  The oil and gas exploration companies will separate the glacial drift information from the bedrock information and donate the glacial drift information to the MGS.

Mario Fusco, MDEQ – The Federal Emergency Management Agency has performed LiDAR mapping in some counties.

Dina Klemans would like to add LiDAR discussion to the April 2017 council meeting agenda.

b. Project-Specific Updates

i. Cass County Assessment Pilot Project - Todd Feenstra, Tritium Inc.

The State of Michigan Quality of Life agencies (MDNR, MDEQ, and MDARD), implemented a grant agreement with the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation (the grantee and financial agent for the Southwest Michigan Farmers for Responsible Water Use) for the Cass County pilot project.  The project’s steering committee consists of the Southwest Michigan Farmers for Responsible Water Use, MDARD, MDEQ, and MDNR.  The Technical Advisory Group for the project includes Tritium, MDEQ, MDNR, MDARD, USGS, Trout Unlimited, MGS, Farm Bureau, and the Michigan Ground Water Association (Well Drillers).

The purpose of the pilot study is to:

  • Collect hydrogeological data;
  • Build groundwater models to represent data; and
  • Take what is learned from the data and apply recommended methods to investigations in other areas of Michigan.

Six monitoring wells were installed in mid-late September.

The current distance between wells is 5 to 19 miles in a highly variable glacial environment.  There are 24 sites with groundwater monitoring wells in a 3-6 mile radius.  There are 5 stream gauges; plus 6 vertically nested well sets.  They are looking for interactions between streams and aquifers.  Probes will be downloaded every week.  Everything will be verified by hand.  All information will be downloaded to the MDEQ quarterly.  Geological core samples will be donated to the MGS.

Robert Whitesides – would like an electronic copy of the QAPP, work plan, and grant agreement.  He would also like an electronic copy of Mario Fusco’s DRAFT Index Flow document.

ii. Index Flow Calculation Procedure - Mario Fusco, MDEQ

Mario gave a presentation regarding the MDEQ’s draft procedure on determining the Site-Specific Review’s Index Flow.

The procedure begins when the Water Use Program staff request an index flow review for a site-specific review.  The procedure describes how the Hydrological Studies and Dam Safety Unit determine the revised index flow, and how the Water Use Program staff use the revised index flow.  The current MDEQ procedure for low flow calculations for the National Pollutant Discharge and Elimination System permits, on which this draft procedure was based, initiated a discussion about whether the department should have a unified procedure on how to perform the index flow review calculations and a separate program-specific procedure referencing it.  

Mario showed slides on the network of gages and miscellaneous measurements used in performing the calculations and gave examples of the different methods used by the MDEQ in determining the index flow; from the simplest case when the Drainage Area Ratio is used to the more complicated case when a correlation between miscellaneous measurements and a USGS gage station is done.  All index flow calculations are conducted using the MDEQ’s database developed by Mr. Marlio Lesmez, Ph.D., P.E., MDEQ.

Mario concluded, based on the examples given, that the current methodology does a good job predicting the index flow if enough watershed information is available.

Frank Ruswick had some legal concerns under Part 327 (Great Lake Preservation) about using data newer than 2008 in the analyses.  A brief discussion followed but a definitive resolution was not reached.  Members of the council agreed on providing comments on the draft procedure by November 15, 2016.

iii. LQW Initiative - Jim Milne, MDEQ

The DEQ is starting an Unreported Large Quantity Withdrawal (LQW) Initiative to bring property owners whose LQWs operated prior to October 1, 2008, but did not register their LQWs into compliance with Part 327.  The WWAT first estimated stream index flows as of October 1, 2008.  The stream flow depletions caused by LQWs that operated prior to October 1, 2008, would have been accounted for by the WWAT’s initial estimate.

Property owners that can demonstrate that their LQW operated prior to October 1, 2008, will have their LQWs registered after-the-fact but the DEQ will not deplete their stream flow from the cumulative stream flow depletion tracking.  Previously unreported LQWs that cannot be shown to have operated prior to October 1, 2008, will have their stream flow depletions deducted from the remaining stream flow, if there is sufficient stream flow available to authorize the LQW.  Historical aerial photographs from sources like Google Earth and ArcGIS can be used to document when the LQW was in operation.

A stakeholder focus group was formed to review and comment on the draft information sheet, application, and outreach strategy.  The focus group met on October 28, 2016.  Several members of the WUAC are also in the focus group.

iv. Real World Stream Flow-Shallow Groundwater Interactions – Chris Hoard, USGS

Chris spoke about the interaction of groundwater and surface water.  The MDEQ and USGS funded a project focusing on the Prairie River watershed to:

  1. Estimate index flow at ungaged locations.
  2. Look at series of tools to detect when groundwater pumping affects stream flow.
  3. Identify critical field data.

The first phase of the study is a statistical analysis of miscellaneous stream flow measurements versus stream gage data.  The field measurements include seepage meters, and temperature measurements using thermal imagery and fiber optics.  The study will identify which methods are scalable and transferable for use elsewhere in Michigan.

Surface and groundwater models will be developed and compared to the WWAT.

It was noted that the dam on Lake Templene will affect stream flow measurements downstream.  The USGS would like to focus on the headwaters of the Prairie River but they still need to obtain property access agreements.

  1. Implementation Plan for Fiscal Year 2017 – Dina Klemans, MDEQ

Projects that have already been initiated will continue throughout 2017.  For instance, the MDNR is working on a procedure to produce bathymetric maps of inland lakes.  The MDEQ, Great Lakes Shorelands Unit, will work with the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) on several projects to update some of the WWAT’s data layers (e.g., stream network, depth to bedrock, glacial and bedrock aquifer transmissivities). 

Laura Campbell questioned using a contractor versus DTMB and was informed that DTMB has firewalls in place to protect the MDEQ data.  An outside contractor will still need to work with DTMB to make sure their products work properly in the State of Michigan’s network. 

  1. Other Business

Abby Eaton, MDARD, gave an example of a problem with their Water Use Reporting database:  the DTMB pushed the completion date out six months and tripled their price for the project.  Now the database is on hold and they are trying to find an outside contractor.

Trent Hilding, Edmore area Farm Bureau member, attorney for farmers, irrigation suppliers, and well drillers, and a property owner with nine LQWs on his properties, spoke on the reporting side and the need to verify property ownership and well location.  He is concerned about verification of property ownership when lessees and other parties can register LQWs using the WWAT.  His concerns include people using the WWAT to tie up water availability and verifying bad well locations.  He noted instances where wells were shown on property they do not own.

Mr. Hilding asked how small farmers know what additional data needs to be collected to authorize SSRs.  He noted three recent SSR denials in Montcalm County.

Mr. Hilding noted that most aquifer disputes are dealt with by the property owner without reporting the dispute to the DEQ or MDARD under Part 317.  He is concerned with small well owners making repeat complaints over time.

Jim Milne stated that anyone can use the WWAT and that restricting the WWAT to only property owners would be unduly burdensome.  The WWAT does ask the user if he/she is the property owner.  If the user is not the property owner, the WWAT asks for the contact information for both the property owner and the site contact (WWAT user).  Only the property owner, or their authorized agent, can legally register the LQW.

The DEQ contacts the property owner and site contact to verify the information in the SSR request.  The Information Guide for LQW Owners (available at http://www.michigan.gov/deqwateruse) provides information about additional data collection methods for property owners, well drillers, consultants, and other interested parties.  The SSR denial letter also tells the property owner his/her options.

Frank Ruswick asked what financial resources will there be for all of the new things the WUAC is finding and requested a funding analysis.  Dina Klemans noted that the fiscal year 2018 budget is under development.  There will not be any staffing increases in the Water Use Program in the short term.

Brian Eggers recommended that the WWAT add caveat language verifying the LQW’s latitude and longitude location in addition to having the SSR verify the property owner and site representative contact information.

Bryan Burroughs stated that the WWAT user needs to have a true, immediate intent to develop capacity to avoid people falsely trying to tie up water.  The DEQ Water Use Program staff noted that the DEQ does have the authority to cancel registrations that were not made by the property owner or their authorized agent.

Larry Walton noted that he uses the WWAT and requests SSRs on property that he leases.

  1. Public Comment on Non-Agenda Items

There was no public comment at this time.

  1. Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held in April 2017.

  1. Adjourn