By: Paul J. Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director
On April 17, 2020, two members of the MLSA Board participated in the Quarterly Meeting of Stakeholders and the Water Resources Division of Michigan’s EGLE (formerly DEQ). The meeting was hosted and coordinated by the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) for its member organizations. (NOTE: We recently joined the MEC to leverage action with other organizations who share similar mission critical objectives aligned with MLSA’s mission and goals).
The meeting agenda included: Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) control under Executive Order 2020-42, Lake Erie Domestic Action Plan (DAP) process and outlook, final CAFO permit overview, Back 40 permits, Line 5 permits, and high water response — specifically long term plans around setback and planning, and groundwater permit progress issues.
The main take-aways from the quarterly meeting are as follows:
1) EGLE stressed that executive orders are issued by the Governor’s Office. They advised MLSA is free to send comments to that office for consideration. Accordingly, MLSA has written a letter explaining why lake and stream management/restoration companies should be classified as essential services under the current and future executive orders. Our letter emphasized the battle of controlling and eradicating aquatic invasive species. You can read our letter here.
2) The new 5 year NPDES General Permit for CAFOs has significant improvements compared to the previous permit that expired on April 1, 2020. The permitted concentrations for phosphorus have been reduced and there are prohibitions about spreading animal waste during the winter months. There are also provisions for setbacks and vegetative buffers.
3) The Enbridge pipeline company continues to submit paperwork for its tunnel project under the Straits of Mackinaw. EGLE will public notice all permit requests as they become complete. EGLE will also make many efforts for concerned citizens to submit public comments, even during this unprecedented time of the pandemic emergency.
4) The forecasts for continued high water levels indicate 2020 will be another year of problems for our state. There is a special task force working on ways to assist in mitigating damage and issuing permits as a needed. An EGLE staff member did express concern that some mitigation concepts would be challenging to implement due to concerns of AIS spread from one water body to another.
5) There have been reports of dairy milk dumping during this pandemic emergency period, with adverse impact to ground and surface water. EGLE has been working with the Michigan Department of Agriculture to help farmers locate waste water treatment plants with available capacity to process the milk as waste to protect our water resources.
MLSA will continue to participate in these periodic meetings and report key points in our monthly newsletter. Your input on what topics MLSA should attempt to place on future agendas is welcome.