McCann and Rogers Introduce Bill to Boost River Cleanup Efforts | WKZO | All Kalamazoo

KALAMAZOO, MI (WKZO AM / FM) – On Tuesday, Sen. Sean McCann (D – Kalamazoo) and Representative Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo) introduced bills to strengthen the authority of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to protect Michigan’s water and natural resources from damage by dam operators.

STS Hydropower is the operator of the Morrow Dam, located on the banks of the Kalamazoo River in the Township of Comstock.

Julie Rogers presents HB 5661. (Image courtesy of Julie Rogers).

In October 2019, STS Hydropower lowered water levels around the dam in order to make repairs deemed necessary by federal regulators. In doing so, 400,000 cubic meters of sediment was released downstream into the river, where it remains and is causing continued damage to the river’s fish, wildlife and vegetation ecosystem.

“Most of us learn in kindergarten that if we make a mess, we’re supposed to clean it up,” Senator McCann said in a statement. “It’s very clear to everyone involved that STS Hydropower is responsible for this mess, but they refused to clean it up. I don’t think we’ve had a situation exactly like this before in Michigan. Our laws need to be updated to give EGLE the tools to protect the Kalamazoo River and its ecosystem.

Senate Bill 813 and House Bill 5661 would amend Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to give EGLE the power to issue written emergency orders when the lakes and inland waterways are threatened with “the public health, safety, welfare, property or nature of natural resources, or public confidence in such natural resources.”

These bills would allow state environmental regulators to direct responsible parties to immediately clean up sediments from the Kalamazoo River and similar situations, without the need for long periods of negotiation.

“The Kalamazoo River has been facing a man-made ecological emergency for two years now, and Eagle Creek Renewable Energy and its subsidiary, STS Hydropower, shouldn’t be able to choose when or if to take responsibility for the mess. that they caused. created, ”Representative Rogers said in a statement. “This is more than unacceptable, and Senator McCann and I will not stand idly by. The legislation we are announcing today will give Michigan’s Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy the additional tools it needs to demand that responsible parties take corrective action if they pollute our yards. water.

They both say that for months EGLE state environmental regulators tried to reach a settlement deal with STS Hydropower over essential cleanup activities, but they lack the legal authority to demand activities such as dredging to remove sediment without the company’s active agreement to participate.

On April 7, 2021, Senator McCann and Representative Rogers sent a joint letter to STS Hydropower which reads in part:

“There are hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of sediment deposited in the river that does not belong to it. Any effort that stops at removing only 3,000 cubic meters of the most easily accessible material is insufficient and will not be accepted by our community. We and the constituents we represent want to know your plan for immediate and extensive dredging activities and additional measures to mitigate downstream spread. “

The company has not completed any additional dredging activity and, since that letter, Eagle Creek has informed EGLE that “they are not going to advance any additional work at this time,” according to Rogers and McCann.

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