Saturday, July 18, 2009

Voices grow in opposition to potential regional water pipeline

By Roberto Acosta
Staff Writer

GENESEE COUNTY -- A Canadian MP from Sarnia has joined a Michigan drain commissioner and the City of Detroit in concern over a possible Genesee County water pipeline.

"The lack of information about the project has caused great concern across my community," said Patricia Davidson in a letter to Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Steve Chester, the state's Department of Environmental Quality director.

Davidson, a member of Canada's Conservative Party, is asking for 60 additional days of public comment to review the proposal.

"This is something we don't want to be making uninformed decisions about," she said. "We need to have the time to determine what's happening. Public comment is currently set to close on July 15.

Jeff Wright, Genesee County Drain Commissioner, has said the pipeline would stretch 65 miles into Sanilac, Lapeer and Genesee counties and carry a projected cost of $603 million.

Construction would be done in cooperation among the Genesee County Drain Commission-Division of Water and Waste Services, the City of Flint, Greater Lapeer County Utilities Authority and Sanilac County.

Wright in the past HAS explained that the plan is for intrastate use and is not considered a diversion under the Great Lakes Compact.

Dennis Lennox, Cheboygan County Drain Commissioner, filed an objection to the proposal on June 5 and has talked of seeking legal action if the Department of Environmental Quality approves the plan.

"Genesee County's proposal opens the door to identical pipelines across the Great Lakes, which would result in mass diversions and the commercial exploitation of water resources," he said.

Lennox also sent a letter to Granholm and Chester asking for more time to review the plan because he was "concerned that the views of Canadian officials, as well as authorities across the Great Lakes region, may not be taken into consideration by the Department of Environmental Quality because they did not have adequate time to study Genesee County's proposal before the close of public comment."

Pamela Fisher, interim director for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, listed several objections to the pipeline in a letter from the department and City of Detroit to Brant Fisher, an environmental engineer specialist for the DEQ's Water Bureau.

The letter says there are factual inaccuracies in the GCDC permit application, and that it fails to comply with the water compact's section concerning the "balance between economic development, social development and environmental protection of the proposed withdrawal and use and other or planned withdrawals in water uses sharing the water source."

The letter states a new pipeline would place an "immediate 6 percent rate increase for all the rest of the DWSD's 85 wholesale customers, as well as the residents of the City of Detroit" because of a smaller customer base. It also questions the project cost, saying the figure "does not, to our knowledge, include the cost of maintaining a connection to DWSD's system, which will be necessary if GCDC is to have the redundancy it needs."

Wright said local customers would see an increase of $7 per month during the pay-off period for a 25-year bond, but could see an overall $200 million savings in rate fees.

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