This week the House Natural Resources Committee passed House Bill 5638, with the goal of making science-based improvements to the water withdrawal registration program to provide clarity for water users and Department of Environmental Quality staff.
Supported by Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB), the legislation addresses farmers’ concerns with the site-specific review process used to determine if a new water withdrawal will cause an adverse resource impact (ARI). (Related story: When water use meets new science)
The bill received yes votes from Republican Reps. Gary Howell, Beau LaFave, David Maturen, Joe Bellino, Daire Rendon and Curt VanderWall while Democratic Reps. William Sowerby and Stephanie Chang voted no. Passing on the vote was Democrat Rep. Sara Cambensy.
“The status quo is unacceptable for my constituents,” said bill sponsor Rep. Aaron Miller at a May 2 hearing on the legislation. “The substitute bill accomplishes my two goals which are to protect the environment while creating regulatory certainty."
Amendments made since the bill was introduced, (in summary) include:
- Adding language affirming the DEQ has 10 days to review data submitted through the SSR process. If the DEQ doesn’t respond within the timeframe, the user can move forward with the withdrawal.
- Adding language requiring the DEQ to provide written reasoning why a proposed withdrawal can’t move forward if they believe it will likely cause an ARI. This must include evidence that the data was wrong, the consultant used the wrong model, or that cumulative impacts will cause an ARI.
- Not changing the exemption from Freedom of Information Act requests under current law.
“The bill will provide users with the means to make water withdrawal registrations less expensive and time consuming,” Smego said. “The legislation does not change farmers and other users’ obligations to not impact nearby resources, nor does it dilute DEQ’s authority over the process.”
“We appreciate the efforts of committee chair Gary Howell and the committee members’ efforts to advance the legislation that will not be considered by the full House.”
Farm Bureau members are asked to continue urging their representatives to pass HB 5638 by sending a text to “MIACT WATER” to the number 52886 and clicking on the link provided to complete the action request. The action request can also easily be completed on our website.