By Paul J Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director
*The bolded statement has been corrected from the original article.
This article focuses on Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) issued permits that riparians might find of interest. One is about the status of the permit issued for massive water withdrawals in Osceola County. The other is for a new boating access site (BAS) on Eagle Lake in Cass County. Both permits were challenged by various groups in the contested permit process through the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules (MOAHR). The cases of interest are as follows:
WATER WITHDRAWALS – DOCKET # 18-011549:
This is the case involving the Nestle Company (Ice Mountain bottled water) application to increase water withdrawals from 250 GPM to 400 GPM under the Safe Drinking Water Act (PA 399). The increase amounts to 1,512,000 gallons per week. Despite tens of thousands of public comments submitted to EGLE, and water table concerns raised by nearby property owners, EGLE issued the permit. On appeal, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) D. Pulter affirmed the permit issuance in a MOAHR decision on April 24, 2020. Certain monitoring requirements were attached to the permit. The adverse ALJ decision was then appealed to circuit court, where it is still pending.
Subsequently, Nestle sold its bottled water operations to One Rock Capital Partners (a New York private equity firm) for $4.3 billion dollars. The company then rebranded the former Nestle operation as Blue Titan. On September 28, 2021, Blue Titan sent a letter to EGLE stating it would not be using the permit for the 400 GPM water withdrawals. Instead, it would only withdraw at 288 GPM, which eliminates the monitoring requirements. Local residents and riparians continue to be concerned about the reduced water volume in Twin Creek and Chippewa Creek that they believe is related to the current 250 GPM withdrawal. They are also concerned about their private drinking water wells. MLSA will continue to monitor this matter and provide updates.
NEW BOATING ACCESS SITE (BAS) – Docket # 16-015208:
This case involves an application by the Michigan DNR to fill just under a half acre of Eagle Lake and construct a totally new BAS without any DNR-provided disinfection/decontamination station for the control of aquatic invasive species (AIS). The lake has four different AIS species present, and can be viewed as a “predator” lake if exiting watercraft are not properly disinfected/decontaminated. With four AIS already flourishing, the lake can also be viewed as an “incubator” lake if any of the Michigan Watch List AIS Species enter the lake via contaminated watercraft. The matter went to a three and a half day hearing and ALJ D. Pulter affirmed EGLE’s issuance of the permit with no AIS protections. The appellants filed exceptions allowed under the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA). As this newsletter goes to press, the final decision by the EGLE Director has not yet been issued.