Senate approves Kahns groundwater dispute resolution measure
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
LANSING — Legislation to restore the groundwater dispute resolution process was approved by the Michigan Senate Tuesday, said sponsor Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township.
“My measure was designed to help keep these types of disputes out of court and aims to find good common sense solutions to groundwater use,” Kahn said. “We must ensure an efficient and fair process for our people.”
Senate Bill 1177 allows the director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, by order, to declare a groundwater dispute if a complaint cannot be resolved within a reasonable time and certain conditions exist, such as incompatible and irreconcilable use of the same groundwater source.
A key amendment was made to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment budget that will keep open the possibility for restoring this program. It will allow the DNRE to fund this program to the extent that funds are available.
Kahn’s proposed law is endorsed by the Michigan Farm Bureau as a proven method of resolving disputes about use of groundwater involving farming operations.
“We strongly support reinstating the groundwater dispute resolution process,” said Matt Smego, legislative counsel for Michigan Farm Bureau. “Senator Kahn’s leadership on this issue is appreciated as this sensible measure will restore the conflict resolution process for Michigan citizens.”
Under the state’s doctrine of riparian water law, Michigan residents are entitled to a reasonable use of the state’s water and this important program helps to maintain that long settled court doctrine.
According to Kahn, SB 1177 could have helped resolve a local groundwater dispute between two Merrill residents and a Richland Township farmer in a timelier manner. Kahn believes the program needs to be restored for the benefit of all Michigan water users.
SB 1177 will now advance to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
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