By Rosemary Pollock
LDS Church's Saginaw Farm Draws Fire from Neighbors Over Water Use
SAGINAW, MICHIGAN -- Wells supplying water to more than 38 Michigan homes
have gone dry in the last month and made national news as residents are
blaming the water shortage on farms run by Walther &Sons and The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The farms are willing to curtail the
amount of water they use and Church officials have offered to monitor water
levels and shut down irrigation systems if needed.
"We are working to find a solution to the problem," said Robert B. Larsen, a
committee chairman that oversees the farm for the LDS Church. Brent W.
Schindler, an Auburn lawyer representing the church said, "We've tried to be
very responsive to the request and the demands of the county."
When problems arose last year, Saginaw County Circuit Judge William A. Crane
granted a temporary injunction limiting irrigation to 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and
banning it for 24 hours after a moderate rainfall. An unnamed citizens group
is raising money, by staging a rummage sale, to take the farms to court.
Meanwhile, the county has put an ultimatum to Clio-based Walther &Sons
Farms and the LDS Church. Kevin W. Datte, the county's environmental health
director said, "Some homes are totally without water, and they've turned the
pumps off," he said. The Department of Public Health has handed the two
corporate farms a Monday deadline to draw up a plan to "mitigate" the amount
of water they are draining from an underground aquifer as homeowners
complain their wells are going dry.
"I've got an 87-year-old woman right now without water," said Carolyn J.
Allen a registered nurse. Walgreen's drugstore has donated 40 cases of
bottled water to families while some residents are going to relatives and
neighbors for drinking water and hauling in five-gallon buckets for bathing
State Sen. Michael J. Goschka, a Brant Township Republican, doesn't see the
need for a statewide law. "We need to address an almost singular problem in
western Saginaw and northeastern Gratiot counties," he said. "I fully
understand the concern and the outrage that the local residents have because
everyone should be able to have water in their home."
The U.S. Geological Survey is conducting a $100,000 hydrogeologic review,
due in September, to monitor water levels and find out what's causing the
problem. Church Attorney, Brent W. Schindler, believes his client's study
show a minimal impact on the aquifer. "In some cases the neighbors need to
drill deeper wells; in other cases we have a number of wells there that are
older," Schindler said. Schindler has reported that The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints has taken water tanks around to some neighbors
and dropped the water-hungry sugar beet crop that it grew last year.
Two farms offer water assistance
Saginaw MI News 1Aug01 B1
By Fred Kelly
Washington Post (AP) 2Aug01 B1
Water fight heats up
Saginaw MI News 27Jul01 B3
By Barrie Barber