Last year State Rep. Dan Scripps (D-Leland) introduced legislation that states that Michigan groundwater should be held in public trust and managed for the good of all. The legislation was spurred by concerns that current law allows for the mining and export of groundwater.



In an interview with Great Lakes Town Hall on 2-28-10 he defended his bill:

GLTH - Last December you introduced legislation (HB 5319) to strengthen protection of Michigan's water, especially related to the public trust. What will this bill do and why did you introduce it?

DS - This plan would clarify that all of Michigan's waters in the public trust, which is the same idea that allows you to take a boat out onto any of Michigan's lakes or rivers without having to pay a fee to the company that bought the land around it. This is an idea that's been around for centuries and already applies to the Great Lakes and our surface waters. Extending these protections to our groundwater is vital if we are going to protect all of our waters for our kids and grandkids.

GLTH -  The Great Lakes Compact says the Great Lakes are a public trust resource. Isn't that enough?

DS - Sadly, it is not. Experts tell us that groundwater and surface water are really one and the same. If we don't have comprehensive protections on our waters everywhere, the truth is that we don't have adequate protections for our waters anywhere.

GLTH - Some say your bill is at odds with private property rights? How do you respond to them and others who may be unsure about your legislation?

DS - Nothing could be further from the truth. This has been one of the biggest misconceptions about this plan, and I've spent a lot of time listening to concerns, and trying to correct what it is that my bill does.  Let's be clear. This plan will strengthen the property rights of well owners and make sure our water is protected. There is no clear separation of the waters under your property from those that extend under your neighbor's land. Without these protections, there's no guarantee that you can continue to access the water that belongs to you, and that a water withdrawal by a company down the road can't dry up your well.

This plan will allow you to stand up and have your voice heard. Property owners should have the right to have a say in the waters they depend on. My plan will make sure that they do.

This bill crossed my consciousness when I recently received a Republican party political flier in the mail saying that Mr. Scripps was trying to take our property rights away, and referred to this bill.  Verifying that perspective was the Traverse City Record Eagle


"Jim Fuscaldo, a retired scientist and lawyer from Cedar, argues if water is considered in the public trust, it means the state can claim ownership and potentially tax citizens to use water on their own property. It could have implications for homeowners, farmers and businesses, he said.

“It transfers all private property water rights to the state without proper compensation. That’s unconstitutional,” Fuscaldo said. “Regulation of use is different than the unequivocal taking of property. They want to regulate the use, but they are going about it the wrong way.”

Maple City water well driller John Zientek agrees.

“It’s the state taking something away from a property owner without any compensation. I don’t think it’s right to take property rights away,” he said.

Zientek worries the state will not only claim ownership, but may one day look to user fees as a new revenue source, if groundwater is placed in public trust."

A couple of years ago I might have thought Jim and John were being a bit too alarmist, but we need only look in our own backyard to remind us that they understand the unintended consequences of such legislation and an increasingly over reaching government. 


Last year, presaging Scripps' legislation, the City of Ludington took away several residents rights to use their groundwater.  In a divided vote which had the mayor casting the tie-breaking vote, the City Council prohibited  Ludington citizens using water from 12 wells in the north side of town for any purpose. 


These wells had been declared contaminated by prior industries, and even though they had been used by folks for years for irrigation and other non-drinking purposes, the City created law that said they could no longer use this well water for anything, they had to be capped, The owners were further restricted to connect to the City's water system, and rewarded them and every other resident a month later by raising the water rates by 19%!  Here's the contentious debate last October:

Well struggle October 2009.doc

So what's your verdict on this subject of groundwater-- public or private?  Is it more of a dealmaker or a dealbreaker for your support of Representative Scripps?  How do you think Ludington's experiment has worked for the public good, and do you think they may have overstepped their authority in telling the property owners what they had to do with their well?  After all, doesn't Rep. Scripps' bill presume the state (and its divisions) has no such power over groundwater already?


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Excellent, thank you, Sheila! It would be great not to have to carry buckets of water out to the barns (or not to have to blow out the hose each night - I accidentally sprayed myself one late January, and had hair-cicles/frozen dreds, and one whole LOCK actually snapped off!).

I think my well is only 50 feet deep right now, and it's pretty rich in nitrates and sulfates (it smells absolutely awful, and it tests undrinkable). I'm lucky my free range herd and flocks have a spring fed pond and creek they can get to when it's not frozen.

OH, I have boers! I haven't taken a walk back there since I found the wallow, and my hunter confirmed he had one come up to his tree stand (he wanted to ask me before he shot it, and I told him to PLEASE go ahead).
I did provide the bill at the top of the thread head, read it, and allowed Rep. Scripps to describe it in his own words as he did in his interview. Pollyanna may have been too severe, as they are both active thinkers, if not always correct.

The bill is simple, and that may be why the two people in the Traverse City paper, and many others, have suggested that private property rights will be compromised. I believe that has happened in Ludington, even without this as law. I like simple laws, but simple laws beget complex lawsuits. Insure private ownership rights of groundwater with some limitations, but don't pass this bill as it is.
was there any proof the mdeq or city gave to the people who had there well capped in n ludington that using it for watering the lawn was unsafe. i remember a few angry ludvillers who verily thought it was nazi tactics by the deq and city.
At one of the first public discussions at the City Council meetings this was discussed. On 9-28-09 Steve Cunningham of the MDEQ had made it clear that their was no danger from the groundwater for watering grass, yet thought (to be safe) this use should be stopped, and recommended the City take the action it did.

Get used to this if the State and its divisional governments gets a law that says your groundwater is their groundwater. Set limits if a Nestle situation is to be avoided, but don't give up your rights.

I'm with you, set limits. Never ever give up your rights.
When I made the post above, I was thinking of quoting your original statement. I think you have a very good truism there, Lisa.
this has absolutly NOTHING to do with taxing your well...PERIOD. That is nothing but a lie deliberatly perpetuated by Franz and Hansen...............Now that being said , what happened in the city of ludington was a huge crock of crap.....The wells had become polluted by an underground plume of chemicals left from the old Ludington Plating corp. and were never cleaned up. So rather than doing the right thing the city just plain robbed the people of the rights to these wells...........
To be exact, the bill does does not have anything to do with taxing anyone's private well. There is a fear out there, however, that this may be an unintended consequence, and seems a logical corollary.

Snide, are you for or against this bill? The Republican fliers may go beyond the issue, but do you consider the bill good for Michiganders? And what is worse, losing the privilege of using your well and being forced to hook up to the municipal system, or having to pay taxes and/or fees for using publicly-owned water that used to belong to you exclusively?
Good post Snide, I agree. A Huge Crock, and that crock is at the core of the MDEQ, which, by it's very existence, has more power in Granny's administration than even the MSP. Now that is POWER! and the Lud. City Council ate that dead corrupt worm hook, line, and sinker, to coin a phrase, not cause they were concerned with safety, that issue has been taken to press here time and time again, but cause it improved their own money coffers.


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