LANSING—Legislation is on its way to the governor to reform the Groundwater Withdrawal Dispute Resolution Program, said Sens. John Moolenaar and Mike Green, both of whom supported the bill in the Senate.
“This is common sense legislation that improves a program that has already proven valuable for agricultural well users across Michigan in avoiding expensive court costs while allowing for a sharing of Michigan’s waters,” said Moolenaar, R-Midland. “Access to water is critical for agriculture, but as a ‘reasonable use’ state, Michigan ensures that all users have the right to a reasonable use of the water. The groundwater dispute resolution process is about protecting an equitable share of our water resources for everyone.”
Under the adopted Senate substitute for House Bill 4663 the program would be mandatory for agricultural wells, but optional for non-agricultural well owners. It includes an informal meeting with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development director that would be a last call for discussion and evidence before a dispute could be declared.
“I have long supported a dispute resolution program that uses sound science for resolving disagreements among well users and that is beneficial to everyone involved by avoiding costly court battles,” said Green, R-Mayville. “The bill places residential property owners on equal footing with agricultural users while providing ample opportunity for all parties to participate and present information prior to an order being issued.”
Green noted that other non-farm well users are given the option of participating, but the real focus of the reform is on agricultural-related disputes, which have long been a source of contention in some areas of the state.
The Senate reforms have the support of more than 15 groups, including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Agribusiness Association, and Michigan Potato Growers Association.
The House concurred in the Senate changes to HB 4663 on Thursday, sending the bill to the governor to be signed into law.