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Michigan Environmental Council statement on DEQ water strategy

Jun 9, 2015
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Office of the Great Lakes today released a draft version of its water strategy, a long-awaited document that will guide state water policy for the next three decades.

"By putting in the effort to build this long-term strategy, the Snyder administration has demonstrated a laudable commitment to protecting Michigan's unrivaled water resources," said Chris Kolb, Michigan Environmental Council president. "The draft document is a comprehensive and thoughtful review of threats to water quality and quantity, as well as opportunities our water resources provide for economic development."

Kolb said MEC particularly appreciates the DEQ's plans to move forward quickly to implement the Water Use Advisory Committee recommendation to improve oversight of large-quantity water users in Michigan. MEC also supports efforts to speed the implementation of green infrastructure projects as a cost-effective way to capture and filter stormwater. Kolb also applauded the water strategy's focus on reconnecting Michiganders with their waterways to promote healthy outdoor recreation, economic development and stewardship of our natural resources.

"It's a strong piece of work, and we are eager to work with the department to take advantage of the public comment period and make it even stronger," Kolb added. For instance, he said it's appropriate to set a more aggressive timeline for tackling some challenges Michigan has faced for many years, such as addressing pollution from septic systems and accelerating the cleanup of underground storage tanks leaking hazardous chemicals into our groundwater.

Kolb also said protecting our fresh water requires concrete steps to reduce nutrient pollution-from sources including wastewater treatment plant discharges, failing septic tanks and the agricultural industry-that is contributing to toxic algae outbreaks, rather than awaiting more study of the problem.

As proposals emerge to farm fish in Michigan, he added, it's crucial that state leaders fully consider the serious risks aquaculture poses and keep those operations in contained systems on land, not in our Great Lakes.

"Overall, we are pleased with the direction of this strategy, and we look forward to working with the DEQ as they gather public comment this summer," Kolb said. "It's impossible to overstate how important the Great Lakes and our inland waters are to Michigan's economy and way of life, so we have to get this right."

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Andy McGlashen: 517-420-1908
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