November 6, 2017 Meeting Notes



NOVEMBER 6, 2017

Members Present:

Bryan Burroughs, Trout Unlimited (TU; Co-Chair); Carl Bednarski, Farm Bureau (FB; Co-Chair); Mike Frederick, Michigan Ground Water Association (MGWA); Tim Boring, Michigan Agri-Business Association (MABA); Ben Russell, Southwest Michigan Farmers for Responsible Water Use (SWMFRWU); David Lusch, MSU; Tom Stanko, Consumers Energy; Justin Dickman (?; for Tom Frazier), Michigan Townships Association (MTA); James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council (MEC); Dave Hamilton, The Nature Conservancy (TNC); Doug Needham, Michigan Aggregates Association (MAA); Pat Staskiewicz, American Water Works Association (AWWA); Maria Claudia Lopez (for Pat Norris), Michigan State University (MSU)

Alternates Present:

Frank Ruswick, Michigan State University-Institute for Water Research (MSU-IWR); Laura Campbell, FB

Ex-officio Members Present:

Ralph Haefner, United States Geological Survey (USGS); Dina Klemans, Department of Environmental Quality, Water Resources Division (DEQ-WRD); Tammy Newcomb, Department of Natural Resources (DNR); John Yellich, Michigan Geological Survey (MGS); Emily Finnell (for Jon Allan), DEQ-Office of the Great Lakes (DEQ-OGL); Abby Eaton (for Jim Johnson), MDARD

Others Present:

Jill Van Dyke, DEQ-WRD; Aaron Rice, Prairie River Water Users Group (PRWUG); Mark Sweatman, DNR; Madeline Gorman, DEQ-OGL; Andy LeBaron, DEQ-WRD; Jim Milne, DEQ‑WRD; Val Vail-Shirey, PRWUG; Maria Claudia Lopez, MSU; Monica Day, MSU Extension; John Stears, general public

Co-chair Bryan Burroughs welcomed council members and other interested parties, had everyone introduce themselves, and reviewed the meeting agenda.

Tammy Newcomb requested that an update on DNR’s stream classification be added to the Program-Related News agenda item.

Program-Related News:

Emily Finnell provided an update on the Office of the Great Lakes’ move from DEQ to DNR, which will take place in 60 days.  All of the DEQ-OGL staff are moving to DNR.

Jim Milne summarized the DEQ Water Use Program’s Year 8 (July 9, 2016-July 8, 2017) program statistics memo that was provided to the council.  Large quantity withdrawal (LQW) registrations peaked during the 2012 drought year (Program Year 4).  About 1/3 of the LQW authorizations are through site-specific reviews (SSR) by the DEQ.  The other 2/3 are registered through the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT).  In Program Year 8, 22% of the SSRs were completed within the 10 business day statutory deadline.  The average time to complete an SSR in Program Year 8 was 35 business days.  Eleven SSRs were denied in Program Year 8, bringing the total number of SSR denials since 2009 to 41.

Water Use Program staff are spending a lot of time providing technical support for the DEQ Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division’s (DEQ-DWMAD) Safe Drinking Water Act permit application for Nestle’.  Returning violations back into compliance with Part 327, Great Lakes Preservation, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended (NREPA), contributes to delays completing SSR reviews.  Finding acceptable water use project alternatives in depleted watersheds is another source of delays. 

Additional staff for the Water Use Program and a more reasonable statutory deadline (20-30 business days) were suggested as ways to improve the timeliness of SSR reviews.  In response to other questions, the DEQ Water Use Program will provide updates on how many watersheds are currently depleted and the locations of SSR denials.

Jim Milne provided an update on the DEQ-WRD’s Unreported LQW Initiative.  The initiative seeks to identify previously unreported LQWs that were in operation prior to October 1, 2008 (the date of the WWAT’s initial estimate of stream index flows), and bring them into compliance with Part 327 of the NREPA.  Property owners that can demonstrate the location, pumping rate, and operation of their LQWs prior to October 1, 2008, will be treated as baseline capacity (i.e., their stream flow depletion effects will not be deducted from the remaining available stream flow in the watershed).  To date, the DEQ received 16 applications:  11 were approved, 1 is ineligible for the initiative, and the remaining 4 applications are for surface water LQWs and are still under review.  It is harder to document the location and operation of surface water LQWs than groundwater wells, which have most of the necessary information available on the well log.  The initiative is currently scheduled to end on April 1, 2018.  The initiative is the fourth opportunity that property owners have had to identify their LQW operations and qualify them as baseline capacity.

The lessons learned by the DEQ so far include how to identify traveler irrigation systems from historical aerial photographs and that it is harder to identify surface water LQWs on aerial photos when there is tree cover along the stream.  There are watersheds that potentially show the impacts of stream flow depletions from LQWs, but that is difficult to prove.  The USGS is conducting a study for the DEQ in Montcalm County (and portions of surrounding Gratiot, Isabella, and Missaukee Counties) to identify groundwater discharge zones in streams and model the response of stream flow to groundwater pumping.

John Yellich provided an update on the MGS’s multiple glacial geology mapping projects in Michigan.  The MGS received funding support from the DEQ, DNR, OGL, and the USGS who matched 1:1, and mapped the Jones and Vandalia Quadrangles in Cass County down to the bedrock surface.  The MGS/Western Michigan University students are looking for evidence of bedrock valleys in Portage, Michigan, where the glacial materials have filled the valleys, creating potential glacial aquifers.  The MGS is also working on aquifer depletion issues in Ottawa County with the County Planning Department.  Substantial economic returns on funding geologic mapping are documented in Indiana (~ $110 million per year) and Kentucky (~$2.25 billion in savings for each dollar spent, ~$4 million per year over 18 years).  Minnesota has a multi-year voter/legislative budget until 2034, having water issues at $110+ million per year for 10 years, of which geologic mapping is one component.  Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin were cited as examples that Michigan can follow in terms of prioritizing geologic mapping.  Geologic mapping costs for 3D map products costs were estimated at $1 million per county.  At least 15 counties are considered a priority.  Obtaining additional matching funds (1:1) from the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program for a total of $2 million for each priority county would be a start.

Public Comment on Agenda Items:

John Stears suggested longer WUAC meetings to discuss water use issues and that the agendas and meeting minutes be made available to the public earlier to allow more time for review.  The public cannot get information on LQWs.

Update on Implementing WUAC Recommendations:

Tammy Newcomb provided an update on cumulative downstream stream flow depletion tracking.  The DNR Fisheries Division and MSU are working on a proposal.  They will meet with the Technical Underpinnings Work Group to discuss their proposal. 

The DNR is still working on their stream classification change process.  The DNR developed the Stream Check tool, which should be ready in early 2018.  The process includes identifying data that consultants and other interested parties need to submit to request a change in the stream temperature classification.  Acceptable standards are being developed for collecting temperature readings.  Joint meetings with the Technical Underpinnings and Environmental Monitoring Work Groups to review the Stream Check tool will be convened in early 2018.

Jim Milne provided an overview of a pilot project to edit the 1:24,000 scale high-resolution National Hydrography Dataset (NHDH) to remove non-perennial canal/ditch and river/stream segments.  Currently the 1:24,000 NHDH and the 1:100,000 scale National Hydrography Dataset (NHD+) used by the WWAT both have non-perennial canal/ditch and river/stream segments.  The DEQ WRD is currently waiting for a proposal from MSU.  The DEQ and DNR will need to have follow-up policy discussions about how to ground truth the edited NHDH.  Additional policy discussions may be necessary concerning the impact of any proposed changes to the WWAT’s stream layer on existing and future LQWs.  Future meetings with the Technical Underpinnings Work Group are anticipated.

Jim Milne provided an update on a pilot project for inland lake bathymetry mapping.  MSU submitted a proposal to the DEQ, which is currently under review.  Knowing the bathymetry of an inland lake is one of the prerequisites for assessing the lake’s risk for adverse resource impacts.  Michigan has approximately 16,000 inland lakes that are ≥ 5 acres.  We only have bathymetry maps for 2,700 lakes, most of which were done by hand in the 1940’s.  Modern technologies that could be used for bathymetry mapping projects include geographic information systems (GIS), sonar, global positioning system (GPS), and light detection and ranging (LiDAR).  Future meetings with the Inland Lakes Work Group are anticipated.

Dave Hamilton provided an update on TNC’s proposal to develop a Hydrologic Framework.  The Hydrologic Framework will be a statewide model with databases including groundwater and surface water interaction analysis.  The framework will allow for ways to pull data into the decision making process as it’s collected.  The framework is regional in scope to allow for data prioritization in areas of need statewide.  The framework will use smart map technology that can pull up available information on specific locations.  TNC is talking to other research groups, universities, state, and federal agencies, and looking into models and related datasets developed since the WWAT was established.  TNC will have the initial vision and data availability ready in the next few months.  They will talk to the Technical Underpinnings Work Group with the goal to have a proposal ready for the next WUAC meeting.

Carl Bednarski led the rest of the meeting.

Communicating SSR Decisions:

The DEQ is looking for volunteers to work on improving the SSR denial letters.  DEQ Water Use Program staff work with property owners, well drillers, consultants, and other interested parties during the SSR process but feedback from some property owners indicates they often do not understand the process used for reviewing data that led to the denial.  The actual denial letter is a form letter that does not go into detail about the SSR review process but does outline the property owner’s options for next steps.  Dina Klemans presented a charge for an ad hoc work group (attached) to make recommendations to the DEQ.  The draft charge will be reviewed with work group members at the first meeting to address any questions, clarify the charge, or amend as determined to be appropriate.

The work group will consist of Mike Frederick, Ralph Haefner, Bryan Burroughs, Abby Eaton, Ben Russell, Frank Ruswick, Laura Campbell, and DEQ staff.  The DEQ hopes to conclude the work group’s meetings by the end of February.

Madeline Gorman gave a presentation, “Analyzing Water Conservation Efforts through Michigan’s Major Water Using Industries.”  She researched water use and interviewed professionals in industries and state government.  Electric power generation is the largest water user in Michigan.  Agricultural irrigation is the largest consumptive water use in Michigan.

Agricultural water use is affected by economic benefits, social stewardship goals, and access to information.  Challenges include technology costs, questions about the WWAT, and uncertainty about whether investments in water conservation will have demonstrated benefits.

Water use by electric power generation is motivated by consumer demand.  Challenges include justifying costs of new technologies and the lack of water consumption data.

Next steps include data collection, behavioral studies, prioritizing water conservation recommendations, and developing processes for identifying industry-specific best management practices.  Her report will be completed by the end of November.

Dina Klemans led a discussion about forming a Program Outreach Work Group.  Interaction with the public and various program stakeholders indicated there is a widespread lack of knowledge about the Water Use Program and statutory obligations under Part 327.  Possible topics include the overall Water Use Program, the Great Lakes Compact, the decision making frameworks in Part 327, SSRs, legislation, and communication about water availability.  A draft work group charge was presented to the Council (attached) and volunteers were requested.  The draft charge will be reviewed with work group members at the first meeting to address any questions, clarify the charge, or amend as determined to be appropriate.

The work group will identify specific issues and topics for outreach and specific proposals for providing them.  Outreach formats could include written materials, videos, meetings, presentations, etc.  The work group will prioritize topics for communication.  The work group will also review current program information for relevance and provide advice on draft outreach materials.  The work group could potentially have draft materials for review by the entire council by the next council meeting.  Recommendations will be presented at the next council meeting, but the scope of the work group might be for the next 1-2 years.

Work group members will be:  Emily Finnell, Dave Lusch, Mike Frederick, John Yellich, James Clift, Tom Stanko, Laura Campbell, Abby Eaton, Maria Lopez, and Bryan Burroughs volunteered to be on the work group.  It was also suggested that Kristin Phillips, DNR, and the DEQ’s External Affairs Office may be good resources.   

Other Business:

Ralph Haefner informed the council that the USGS split up the Michigan-Ohio Water Science Center.  Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are now in one Water Science Center and Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio are in another Water Science Center.

Public Comment on Non-Agenda Items:

Mr. John Stears thanked the council members who volunteered for the Program Outreach Work Group.  He sees a lack of communication with the public.  The public lacks an understanding of the regulatory requirements, what the decision making process is, the farmers’ water needs, or why additional data collection is important.  The council’s meeting minutes are posted very far after the meeting date.  Could they be published more timely?  He is concerned about costs and the need to prioritize what we want to do in Michigan.  We need to develop a legacy and be ready to pass on to the next generation a good system for managing water.  We need to educate the next generation on the importance of water and its use.  There needs to be faster decision making on making progress towards solving issues.

Next Meeting:

The next council meeting will be scheduled some time in May 2018.

The meeting was adjourned at noon.


SSR Communications – Some land owners who have been denied water withdrawal registrations through the SSR process do not fully understand the reason(s) for the denial, particularly when they have provided additional site-specific information as part of the review process.

The ad hoc work group on SSR communications will:

  • review example SSR denial letters and common reasons that available information does not support approval of the withdrawal
  • provide advice to the DEQ on how best to communicate reasons for denials in SSR denial letters

The work group will disband after this charge is fulfilled.  Estimated time to complete task – 3 months.

Program Outreach – The DEQ recognizes the need to enhance communication and outreach related to the Water Withdrawal program, including but not limited to the goals of the GL Compact and Michigan’s implementing legislation; withdrawal regulations; decision making framework, including the WWAT, SSRs, permits; the availability of water for withdrawal (i.e. Zones C and D water management areas); and water use in the state of Michigan.  We need to provide the information that is most useful to and in a manner that will be most used by program stakeholders and the general public.  To do this we recognize the need to engage representatives of the very stakeholders for which the information is intended and propose to form a new work group of the WUAC.   

The work group on program outreach will:

  1. Identify specific issues/topics for outreach and suggested approaches for providing (i.e. written materials, videos, Webinars, meetings, etc.)
  2. Recommend priorities for outreach activities and information needs
  3. Review available information that may address the needs and provide recommendations for updates, if any
  4. Review and provide advice on draft outreach materials as developed
  5. Work group members may volunteer to develop draft outreach materials

Timeline – complete items 1-3 within 6 months.  Goal is to present draft recommendations and obtain additional input at next WUAC meeting.  Items 4 and 5 are expected to be ongoing over the next 1-2 years but time commitment would be periodic.