By Nicole Sevrey
On a 93-15 vote the Michigan House passed legislation aimed at making science-based improvements to the state’s water withdrawal registration program. House Bill 5638, sponsored by Rep. Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis), is also intended to provide clarity for both water users and Department of Environmental Quality staff.
Supported by Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB), the legislation specifically addresses farmers’ concerns with the site-specific review process used to determine if a new water withdrawal will cause an adverse resource impact (ARI).
“We’re pleased to see the bill receive bipartisan support with 63 Republicans and 30 Democrats casting yes votes,” said Matt Smego, MFB’s Government Relations Department manager. “With the significant amendments made thus far, we hope the process will move quickly in the Senate.”
Amendments made since the bill was introduced, (in summary) include:
Smego credited the wide margin of approval to the strong showing and vocal support of county Farm Bureau members from across the state. “We had 147 members from 52 different county Farm Bureaus generate more than 1,400 emails to legislators on this issue,” he said. “They don’t hesitate to speak up and represent member-approved policy on issues impacting their ability to produce the food and fiber products we all enjoy.”
The bill will now be considered by the Senate Natural Resources Committee, where Smego hopes it will be approved and moved quickly for a full Senate vote.
“At the end of the day, the bill provides users with a clear process based on science and the means to make water withdrawal registrations less expensive and time consuming,” Smego said. “It does not change farmers and other users’ obligations to not impact nearby resources, nor does it dilute DEQ’s authority over the process.”