Michigan environmental officials on Friday gave Genesee County permission to withdraw up to 85 million gallons a day from Lake Huron through a proposed $600 million pipeline for its public water supply.The Department of Environmental Quality issued the permit despite concerns raised by environmental groups and a threatened lawsuit by the drain commissioner of Cheboygan County, which is farther up the shoreline. Department spokesman Robert McCann said the agency determined that the project would not reduce water levels or otherwise harm the Great Lakes.Genesee County now gets its water from Detroit's system. The new pipeline would supply the county, the city of Flint and possibly other municipalities in nearby Lapeer, Sanilac, Saginaw and Shiawassee counties.The Detroit-owned pipeline that currently supplies Genesee County pulls water from the lake near Port Huron. Built in 1966, it has had occasional shutdowns and other reliability problems since 2003, said Jeff Wright, Genesee County's drain commissioner."There has to be a second system built," Wright said. "We've determined that whether we stay with Detroit ... or if we build one ourselves, it's basically the same cost. If we're going to pay for it either way, why not own it when we're done."Flint along with Lapeer and Genesee counties have passed resolutions to establish a water authority for joint ownership and oversight of the proposed system, he said.During peak periods _ particularly on hot summer days _ they use about 55 million gallons a day between them. On the average day, usage totals around 40 million.But they're proposing a pipeline with a capacity of 85 million gallons because demand could increase substantially in coming decades, Wright said. Skeptics question whether the economically ailing Flint area will need that much water in the foreseeable future.Wright said Genesee, Flint and Lapeer actually send more water to Lake Huron than they take out. That's because the water they return to the lake after using it includes additional volume from thousands of homeowner wells, which is processed by municipal waste treatment systems."So it's a net gain for Lake Huron," he said.John Jackson, director of clean production and toxins for the advocacy group Great Lakes United, said the state permit sets a bad precedent by authorizing removal of more water from the system than is needed."It basically endorses continued misuse of the waters of the Great Lakes," Jackson said.Jackson said that despite assurances by Genesee County officials, it's not certain that building another pipeline would reduce the amount of water that the existing Detroit pipe sucks from the lake.He also complained that Genesee County and its partners had not been required to submit adequate water conservation plans.Wright said Genesee encouraged conservation four years ago by imposing a flat water rate, replacing a system that gave the biggest users the lowest price.Dennis Lennox, the Cheboygan County drain commissioner, said he would review the permit before deciding whether to follow through on his lawsuit warning."This is a precedent-setting situation that will open the door to pipelines being approved across the Great Lakes states and provinces over the coming years," he said.Because it would not divert water out of the drainage basin, the project is not prohibited under a water compact approved by the eight Great Lakes states last year.
/ Source: PhillyBurbs.com