2017-04-20 / Columns

Woes Abound in Water Wonderland

Before our state embraced its current “Pure Michigan” slogan, it touted itself as the “Water Wonderland” on license plates and elsewhere.

The wonderland currently has many a woe. I have previously noted such issues as the efforts of the Michigan congressional delegation, led by Senator Debbie Stabenow and Senator Gary Peters, to counter President Donald Trump’s plan to cut funding for the Great Lakes.

Stabenow and Peters, as well as Up North’s 1st District U.S. Representative Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet), also are pushing to get the feds to deliver on the long-delayed U.S. Corps of Engineers project for a new lock at the Soo Locks to assure that big vessels essential to the national economy can get to the heartland.

While the Soo Locks issue has vast national implications, and there are differences among the states on such issues as how the feds should deal with the Asian carp invasion into the Great Lakes, there are some current water issues that are specific to Michigan.

Bottled water is a big current issue in Michigan, and not only because it is needed for the health of long-troubled residents of Flint who have been dealing with such bad, bad water that it has long been a national issue.

It has been a lingering issue for Governor Rick Snyder, and will be one on which his reign is judged.

Environmentalists in West Michigan currently are fighting a bid by Nestle Waters North America to hike the amount of water it takes from 250 gallons per minute to 400 gallons from underground water in Osceola County.

In a report from Big Rapids, The Detroit News said critics honed on the low cost to the company for drawing more water from the ground.

According to the Department of Environmental Quality, it would cost the company $5,000 for a permit application to withdraw about 210 million gallons a year, and an annual $200 fee for filing related annual paperwork. Mighty cheap.

“If Flint could pay that rate, their annual household cost would be less than 75¢ per year,” said Peggy Case, president of the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, which opposes Nestle’s bid.

The Detroit News said Case “was outraged that Nestle can withdraw water for a price that is proportionally far less than the amount paid by Flint residents for water they couldn’t drink in its lead-contaminated water crisis, a fact often brought up by those opposed to Nestle’s bid.”

Another lingering Michigan water issue involves Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac. As noted last week by The St. Ignace News, the firm will conduct a May-June hydrostatic test, filling the line with water.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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