The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is delaying its proposed temperature reclassification of the Prairie River in Branch County after Michigan Farm Bureau and more than 200 of the organization’s members and supporters voiced concern over the process and data used to craft the recommendation.
More than 600 messages were sent to DNR leaders and Natural Resources Commission (NRC) members regarding the proposal, which would have established precedent for reclassifying the temperature of any stream where fish populations might be at risk from withdrawal of water from surface or groundwater sources.
Laura Campbell, MFB senior conservation and regulatory relations specialist, said she and MFB legislative counsels Ben Tirrell and Andrew Vermeesch met with acting DNR Director Shannon Lott earlier this month following the organization making public remarks at recent NRC meetings.
“We had a productive meeting with the DNR,” Campbell said. “In addition to acknowledging this decision warrants more time for stakeholder input than was originally offered, they committed to additional data collection that follows EPA protocols to help ensure that good science is guiding this decision.”
A decision that she said should not be taken lightly.
“Water withdrawal limits are established in part by the temperature classification of a river and the DNR’s proposal would reduce the number of additional withdrawals available from the watershed around the Prairie River, including for agricultural production.”
While the timeline for additional data collection and subsequent revisiting of the reclassification proposal is undetermined, Campbell said the DNR indicated they would communicate with landowners in the area.
In the meantime, she encourages farmers to be proactive.
“Farmers in this area may want to begin discussing next steps, including potentially forming what is known as a water users committee,” Campbell added.
“These voluntary groups are a way for users to manage these types of situations and may offer a venue for them to share information and be at the table in the future.”