Senate Republicans pledge to move groundwater
plan this fall
By David Eggert
Published in the Centre Daily on September 15, 2005
LANSING, Mich. - The state would have oversight of some
Michigan farms, businesses and other groundwater users
that withdraw more than 100,000 gallons per day under
a plan outlined Thursday by Senate Republicans.
The legislation, which will be introduced next month,
could require state permits for new and expanding large-scale
groundwater users but only if their withdrawals would
hurt key natural resources. Unlike a plan proposed by
Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the GOP legislation
would not apply to surface water.
Granholm's Water Legacy Act would require permits for
all new or increased withdrawals from both groundwater
and surface water over 2 million gallons per day. Starting
in 2010, the permit requirement would apply to all new
or increased withdrawals of more than 100,000 gallons
"We want to move forward in a bipartisan manner,"
said Sen. Patricia Birkholz, a Saugatuck Republican who
recently held a series of hearings on the issue around
The Granholm administration said it was happy Republican
lawmakers plan to take action but wanted to see more specifics
of the GOP proposal before commenting further. Democrats
have accused Republicans of dragging their feet, while
Republicans said the issue needed to be carefully examined.
Concerns have risen that the region's waters are vulnerable
to diversion outside the basin.
Birkholz said the GOP plan would require a new or expanding
large-scale groundwater user to conduct an assessment
of the potential environmental impact to key natural resources
and wells. If it did not show any negative impact, the
project could move forward, but the state could review
If the project potentially could be harmful, the user
would have to reduce the risk or apply for a state permit.
Birkholz said concepts of the GOP plan are supported
by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Manufacturers
Association, Trout Unlimited and Michigan United Conservation
But at least one environmental group criticized the GOP's
plan, saying the Legislature should craft a broader package
to include surface water protections.
"Our concern is they are moving in the direction
of only protecting trout streams," said Cyndi Roper,
Great Lakes policy director for Clean Water Action.
Roper also questioned how the state would afford to conduct
audits of large-scale users' assessments and how the permitting
process would work.
"We shouldn't allow permits if there is going to
be damage to the resource," she said.
A related issue is bottled water.
Granholm has slapped a moratorium on new or expanded
bottled water operations in Michigan until the Legislature
enacts a water withdrawal law.
Earlier this week, House Democrats announced legislation
that would require water bottling companies to certify
that nearly all of the water they are selling - 98 percent
of it - will stay in the Great Lakes basin.
Birkholz said Senate Republicans probably will address
bottled water operations in their legislation, but she
did not commit to it.
"I don't think we can pit one product against another,"