April 2019

Bryan Times Apr. 6, 2019

Commissioners neutral on charter;

won’t rescind Michindoh Aquifer resolution

Report by Don Koralewski

Retired farmer and Edgerton area resident Marvin Dietsch addressed Williams County Commissioners during their Thursday meeting and asked them two specific questions:  Where does the board stand on the county charter question that may appear on November’s ballot?; and, would the board rescind the resolution it passed last year in opposition to commercial drilling and sale of Michindoh aquifer water?

In between the questions, Dietsch addressed the board for about 20 minutes with his case to rescind the resolution and, in essence, get out of the way of an enterprise that would provide positive economic impact in the county at no detriment to the aquifer.

At the outset of Dietsch’s time before the board, he directly asked commissioners where the board now stands with regard to the proposal of county charter that would specifically protect the aquifer and also change county government to a home rule form of government … allowing county government to institute regulations apart from those codified in state law.

“I’d like to know just where you all stand on this, in general,” Dietsch said.

“At this point, I do not have a position on it,” said Board of Commissioners President Terry Rummel.  “We are gaining knowledge and I believe the other two feel the same way.  We haven’t taken any formal position on the charter government, or what it is or what it isn’t.”

Rummel said he’s studied the proposed charter, and he’s also studied the Ohio Revised Code with regard to governance issues.  He said he’s not informed enough on the matter to know how a charter will impact the county and county government.]

Dietsch’s main point in addressing the board related to his support of a plan by Artesian of Pioneer (AOP) to pump millions of gallons of Michindoh aquifer water to communities around Toledo.

Dietsch did the math several times during his presentation.  The math points to 75 million gallons of water from the Michindoh being drawn daily by communities in nine counties, in three states.  According to Dietsch, this is a fraction of the capacity and the recharge ability of the aquifer.  He stated that the aquifer has the capacity of recharging at 425 million gallons a day — leaving 350 million gallons in surplus.

“As long as we have 425 – 75 million usage, we have 350 million gallons of water a day overflowing from the aquifer.  Spilling out into Beaver Creek, and our fields and our streams.  We have not a limited aquifer, or a depleting aquifer, we have an abundant aquifer that is overflowing,:” said Dietsch.

“This water is a tremendous asset that if it lays in the ground or goes down the ditch to Lake Erie it serves nobody.  To me, it’s a waste not to use resources that you have in abundance, and not provideea very important commodity to your neighbors.

“We will sell them everything else, and now we’re taking a position that we have to stop private enterprise from developing a resource that can be of benefit to them and economic benefit to us.  You cannot put in a $20 million facility, employ people, pay the taxes, and do all of these things and not be of economic benefit to your own county,” said Dietsch.

Dietsch wasn’t specific about how he arrived at the 425 million gallons a day of aquifer recharge.  He told commissioners that he had most of the studies done on the aquifer over the last 50 years, and calculated average rainfall in Williams County

During much of his presentation, Dietsch criticized those who have voiced opposition to the AOP.

“Where do we get this hysteria and this phobia on our aquifer,” asked Dietsch.  “Blows my mind.  When I look at it and see that we have four gallons of water going into a one gallon container.  It’s constantly overflowing at the top.

“And, we’re trying to deny an individual with a good reputation, with a history of knowing what he’s doing with water … we’re trying to hype the public that this man is so stupid that he would put in a facility that would run out of water,” said Dietsch.

Dietsch ended his address to commissioners with a request that they rescind a resolution they passed last year in opposition to the AOP plan.

“I think it was inappropriate,” he said.  “I think it was politics.  I understand it was a political year, an election year, and it’s easy to be intimidated by high pressure groups.  But, I don’t like to see us setting a trend to stand up as official bodies and try to kill the system that is making this country — and that’s private enterprise and private property rights.

“I don’t want to see our county government taking my property rights away from me and my farm and telling me I can’t irrigate and put irrational restrictions on me when they know very little about my business,” he said.

Commission Vice President Lewis Hilkert responded that his vote for the resolution came from his reading of a study commissioned in the 1980’s by local governments in Williams County.

“I voted to oppose the project based on that study that was done by the department of interior because of the risk that could happen … especially if it did draw down wells and then contamination were to get into those wells,” said Hilkert.

“That’s why I voted to oppose it.  If there’s a motion to rescind it, I’m going to vote the same way I did the last time on the information that I had.  You may not agree with that.  But that’s my position on that.”

Rummel abstained from the vote on the resolution last year due to his requirement for more information on the matter.  “I abstained from that vote, and I would abstain from that vote today,” he told Dietsch.

Rummel advocates for more information, including the establishment of an aquifer monitoring system.

 

Bryan Times, April 10, 2019

Charter informational meetings draw interest, signatures

Report by Ron Osburn

The next in a series of informational meetings about a proposed county charter initiative is at 6:30 pm Thursday, at the Edon Community Center.

The Williams County Alliance is staging five meetings in April at different locations around the county to provide detailed information to the public and answer questions about the proposed county charter initiative.  The first meeting last week drew about 60 people to the Eagles club in Bryan.

The Alliance has proposed the charter as a way to legally oppose Artesian of Pioneer’s plans to drill into the Michindoh Aquifer and sell water to entities outside of Williams County.

Sherry Fleming, of the Alliance, said the group is working with the Communty Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) on the charter, which she said could be tailored to allow Williams County to create its own government and adopt legislation more in line with the needs and wishes of the community.

Two of Ohio’s 88 counties — Summit and Cuyahoga counties — currently operate under a charter, rather than adhering to statutory, or state of Ohio laws.

The group needs to collect a minimum of 1,363 signatures of registered Williams County voters, regardless of party affiliation, by July 3, to place it on the November general election ballot.]

Fleming said Tuesday the group has collected about 800 signatures so far and plans to collect signatures until early June.

“We have a target date of June 7.  We hope to collect 1,700 – 2,000 signatures by then,” Fleming said.]

The group will have ballot petitions available to sign at the Edon meeting.

Fleming said voters could sign the petition while learning more about the proposed charter, and still have until the Nov. 5 general election to make a voting decision.

AOP founder and President Ed Kidston has said he hopes to drill into the Michindoh, set up a new dedicated water system and pipe up to 14 million gallons of water a day to up to nine entities outside the aquifer area.

He currently is awaiting a decision by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency regarding a test production water well near Fayette — potentially the first of multiple wells that would feed the new water system.

As of Tuesday, no decision has been made on the AOP application, according to Dina Pierce, Ohio EPA spokesperson.

“Ohio EPA is reviewing the many public comments received.  We do not have an estimate when a decision will be made,” Pierce said Tuesday.

The entire text of the proposed Williams County charter, along with other points of information, is available at http://www.protectourwaterwilliamscounty.com.

 

Bryan Times Apr. 16, 2019

Edon officials wary of charter initiative

Report by Lucas Bechtol

Edon officials expressed concern about a county charter initiative being introduced by the Williams County Alliance group to combat Artesian of Pioneer and its plans for the Michindoh Aquifer.

The charter would keep the current county governmental structure intact but would incorporate a referendum process that could put certain issues to a county-wide vote.  That could include AOP’s plan to pump up to 14 million gallons of water a day from the Michindoh to nine entities outside the aquifer area.

Several Edon officials attended an informational meeting about the charter and came out with more questions than answers.

“It sounds like they have some language in there that supersedes our authority,” said Councilman Dave Loughborough at Monday’s meeting.  “Should we be concerned about that?”

Loughborough gave a copy of the charter initiative to the council members and to solicitor Tom Thompson.

Thompson was asked to look over the charter and get back to council with his thoughts.

Edon has gone on record in opposition to AOP’s plan, and Loughborough said he was not standing in favor of AOP, only that he had some concerns with the charter as he understood it.

“You’re pushing all the power to the commissioners in the area,” he said.  “I’m concerned with the ramifications down the road to giving three people, basically, the power of law.  they aren’t changing the number of commissioners, so all you would need is a two-person majority in Williams County to make law.”

Councilman Spencer Kaiser, who as also at the meeting, said it felt like the Alliance and AOP were “in a footrace” in which the winner could stop the other’s efforts.

Because of that, the charter didn’t touch anything involving the government — “Let the government be the government” as Kaiser said — and focused on the water problem.

“Even on the smaller level at the Village of Edon, we have six members here and that limits the idea of corruption,” he said.  “We have three commissioners.  This going through would give the commissioners the right to make laws and ordinances for this county … As long as there are two people in there who agree that law is a law.”

Kaiser said he wasn’t completely against the charter idea, but wanted more equal representation throughout the county because three people in one area may not work for the best of Edon or Pioneer or other area.

Loughborough — who said he is not a lawyer and “didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night” — said his reading made him believe the commissioners would end up charged with protecting the Michindoh Aquifer and lobbying for it.

“There’s also lines like ‘extraction, removal, sale, lease, transportation, distribution of water from the Michindoh Aquifer by any business, government entity, and individual, infrastructure, including pipelines and bottling facilities, are prohibited,'” he said.  “That was paraphrased.”

Loughborough said his cooperative adds water to fertilizer and ships it out, something he thought would not be legal under the charter to his understanding.

“We have businesses that are absolutely dependent on being able to pump water from the aquifer, to be able to sell it for commercial gain, and it does read to me that they can’t do that anymore,” Loughborough said.

Thompson said there are “almost always unintended consequences with any action.”

“The likelihood is only the person who wrote it has any idea what they actually meant when they put it together,” he added.

Thompson said he could contact the person who wrote it, but didn’t know who wrote it.

 

Bryan Times, Apr. 20, 2019

No decision on AOP well application,

but design progresses

Report by Jen Lazenby and Ron Osburn

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing approximately 250 comments made about an application by Artesian of Pioneer for a production water well near Fayette in Fulton County, but has made no decision about the well yet.

The well application is an initial step in AOP’s controversial plan first announced in June 2018 to drill into the Michindoh Aquifer and supply up to 14 million gallons (per day) of aquifer water to up to nine counties outside Williams County.

Meanwhile, Poggemeyer Design Group said Wednesday it is close to finalizing a study on what it would cost to deliver water from the proposed well site near Fayette to seven communities that are considering a new regional ground water plant constructed by AOP.

Tom Borck, vice president of Poggemeyer Design Group, told the Henry County Regional Water and Sewer Board of Trustees on Wednesday that the completed study could be ready to present next week to a work group of representatives from the entities involved.

In October 2018, the water and sewer board of trustees approved an agreement to support AOP in drilling test wells on behalf of a consortium of seven entities. 

The district, villages of Liberty Center and Whitehouse, cities of Maumee, Sylvania and Perrysburg, and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District are partnering for the project to see if that area could support a ground water plant which would supply drinking water to those communities.

“It looks feasible is the short answer right now,” Borck said, though he did not provide any figures from the study.  Borck said AOP’s estimated cost to produce water at the plant is currently around $3 per 1,000 gallons, so the costs of infrastructure to transport the water to the participating communities will be added to that figure.

Rex Huffman, legal counsel for the district, said the critical decision will be which entities elect to continue with the project after reviewing the transmission data.

Borck added that AOP — owned by Ed Kidston, who also serves as Pioneer mayor — doesn’t yet have final approval from the Environmental Protection Agency for a production well on the site, which was confirmed Friday by the EPA.

“No decision has been made and we do not have an estimate on when a decision will be made,” Dina Pierce, media coordinator for Ohio EPA’s Northwest and Southwest districts, said Friday in response to questions from The Bryan Times. 

Pierce said the EPA received about 250 comments about AOP’s proposed plan during a monthlong public comment period from mid-February to mid-March.

The EPA also held a three-hour public information session March 12 to discuss and answer questions about AOP’s plan that drew about 800 people to Fayette school.

The AOP plan has drawn widespread opposition from residents and some local elected officials including public protests, informational meetings and letter-writing campaigns in Williams County and throughout the nine-county, tri-state area bounded by the Michindoh.  The EPA said they scheduled the March 12 meeting to address those concerns.

Pierce said EPA staff is reviewing the public comment but had no timeline when a decision would be made.  She said the decision about the well site application will be made by Ohio EPA’s director Laurie A. Stevenson after staff completes its review.

The Henry County district currently purchases water from the City of Napoleon, but issues over the cost of water led to the search for other potential sources.

Henry County Planning Director Nick Rettig said the district, as well as the other satellite water customers of the city, will meet next week with city officials to continue discussions on the city’s offer to drop a 25 percent surcharge which is charged to the satellites on top of the wholesale rate.

 

Bryan Times, Apr. 25, 2019

Transmission costs for AOP project studied

Report by Jen Lazenby

As discussions and testing continue for a potential new ground water plant near Fayette that could provide water to seven communities, including the Henry County Regional Water and Sewer District and Village of Liberty Center, the most recent conversations centered on how much it would cost to transport water.

The Henry County Regional Water and Sewer Board of Trustees is leading a group of seven communities which are studying the feasibility of constructing a regional water plant near Fayette.  As proposed, Artesian of Pioneer (AOP) would construct the plant, which could potentially provide water to the Henry County district, villages of Liberty Center and Whitehouse, cities of Maumee, Sylvania and Perrysburg and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District.  The plant would utilize ground water from the Michindoh Aquifer.

Representatives from the seven entities and AOP met Tuesday in a work group to discuss the draft report of what the costs would be to transport water from the proposed plant to those seven communities, as well as the operation and maintenance on those lines.  The meeting was not open to the public as none of the governmental entities involved had enough members for a quorum, which would require the meeting be public.

On Wednesday, Tom Borck, vice president of Poggemeyer Design Group, who prepared the transmission report, said the information was well-received by the entities.

“It’s feasible from a cost standpoint,” Borck said.  “It’s in the ballpark for what people are paying for water.”

Borck declined to provide a specific amount on the transmission costs at this point, citing the report’s draft form.

Henry County Planning Director Nick Rettig, who also works with the Henry County Regional Water and Sewer Board of Trustees, also declined to discuss a specific transmission cost until his board has a chance to review it.  However, he agreed the costs appear to be reasonable.

“It all looks favorable, especially to the smaller (communities),” Rettig said, adding the estimated transmission costs, plus the actual cost of the water — which AOP has estimated at $3 per 1,000 gallons — is less than what the district is currently paying the City of Napoleon for water.

Both Borck and Rettig said the next step is verifying whether the water source is robust enough to supply the plant.  Rettig said the average daily demand for the seven entities is 15 million gallons per day, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will likely want to make sure peak demand can be met and that would be around 30 million gallons per day.

To determine whether AOP and the Michindoh can meet that demand, a production well and further testing and modeling is needed, and the approval for the production well is still pending with the EPA.  On Friday, Dina Pierce, media coordinator for Ohio EPA’s Northwest and Southwest districts, said there was not an estimated timeline on when a decision would be made.

Rettig said the representatives of each entity will report back to their respective councils and boards amid continued discussions about which entities will continue moving forward with the project.

“No one has shied away yet,” Rettig said.

The seven entities involved each contributed $25,000 to begin the study of the project for a total of $175,000.

According to Rettig, $57,978.30 has been paid to AOP, $26,289.51 to Eagon & Associates and $15,998.90 to Poggemeyer Design Group fro a total of $100,266.71 spent so far.  However, Rettig said one more bill from Poggemeyer will be due soon, leaving $44,000 in the project fund.

The Henry County district and Village of Liberty Center currently purchase water from the City of Napoleon, but issues over the cost of water led to the search for the other potential sources.  The two entities are also continuing to negotiate with Napoleon.

The AOP plan has drawn opposition from residents and some local elected officials in Williams County and throughout the tri-state area that is served by the Michindoh Aquifer.