Wednesday, December 24, 2008

100,000 Gallons a day are one click away

Clinton Township-On December 8, MSU’s Institute of Water Research introduced the new rules and regulations being implemented for large-scale water withdrawals. This is part of a series of workshops going on around the state. The next meeting is January 22, 2009 in West Olive.

The Institute of Water Research has created a first of its kind website that allows users to quickly see if a water withdrawal is possible. The website can instantly grant or deny access. If you are denied access then you can try from a different point on your property. Sometimes a different part of your property may be in a different watershed.

Michigan is the only state to have a website that manages all of the large-scale water withdrawals. A large-scale water withdrawal is defined as any daily withdrawal exceeding 100,000 gallons a day.

The website is based on existing data and a combination of three different models.

With an interactive map the user can zoom into their property and choose where they want to sink a well and how much water they want to withdraw. You then click a button and within moments you are told whether you can proceed with the withdrawal or not.

The USGS only monitors 142 different sites, so the rest of the 13,000 river segments have to be predicted according to the stream type and the index flow. The index flow is the median flow for the month of the lowest water levels. There are 11 different stream types in Michigan and they all have different amounts of water that can be withdrawn before it negatively affects the ecosystem.

The way that they are determining ecological harm is by whether or not characteristic fish are harmed by the proposed water withdrawal.

The online tool naturally underreports the water that is available. Since they don’t know the amount of error when combining all three of these models, they are only making half of the amount of the water available on the website.

There are four zones A-D. Zone A means there will not be an adverse impact on the ecosystem, while zone B means there will not be much of an impact on the ecosystem. Any withdrawal that falls into the C or D range will not be authorized by the website. Anybody that keeps falling into the C or D range can have the MDEQ come out free of charge to do an onsite assessment.

If the MDEQ issues a permit to anyone falling into the Zone B or C range they will have to place a notice on their website and notify other water users in that community. The MDEQ ruling can also be legally challenged by the person proposing the withdrawal or by a third party.

It is important for everyone with wells to register them with the MDEQ by February 1, 2009. After that the MDEQ will be actively seeking those who have not registered. The law officially goes into place July 9, 2009. Any wells that existed prior to February 28, 2006 are grandfathered in. Whether they cause ecological harm or not they can continue to operate. Any new wells have to receive a permit before they are installed.

The main reason that the rules are being updated on water withdrawals is due to the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says: “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with Indian tribes.” This ignited an argument over who should regulate water, the states or Washington? The states won this argument and now water regulations are being updated in Michigan and other states throughout the Midwest. This all has a lot to do with the recent passing of the Great Lakes Compact, the legislation protecting the Great Lakes from water diversions. The states have to show initiative in managing their resources or Washington will do it for them.

Michigan's Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool

By Jason Tafilowski

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"In Ohio, Rumblings About Pet Coke "

Investigative journalist Glen Puit has written a very in depth story for the Great Lakes Bulletin News Service on the negative effects of pet coke power plants on neighborhoods in Ohio. Pet coke is a cheaper way to generate power but it is much dirtier.

According to the article: "Burning pet coke, according to an industrial trade association, produces about 50 percent more ash than burning coal, and that ash contains many toxic heavy metals. And, according to federal records that track U. S. power plant emissions, burning petroleum coke also increase smokestack gases that experts say can cause or worsen certain lung and heart problems and produce acid rain."

It is important to consider all of the economic and health implications of the proposed plant as the public comment period winds down to a close. The MDEQ will hold one last public hearing on January 6, before they issue a decision to grant an air permit for the proposed pet coke power plant in Roger's City.

In Ohio, Rumblings About Pet Coke

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mining Madness, Water Wars: The Great Lakes in the Balance

The new documentary about Kennecott's attempt to sulfide mine in the Yellow Dog plains in the Upper Peninsula is available for viewing on the National Wildlife Federation website. Copies are also available for only $5.

View Now: Mining Madness, Water Wars: The Great Lakes in the Balance


Save the Wild UP

Monday, December 8, 2008

JS: "Little city is at center of a great debate"

The city of Superior Wisconsin is in the planning stages of building one of the nation's largest refineries, making the midwest a major player in importing and refining foreign oil.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Little city is at center of great debate