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Posted 05 Aug 2001   For week ended August 03, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 03Aug01

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 and cleaning.

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

Saginaw Farm
Washington Post (AP) 2Aug01 B1

Water fight heats up
Saginaw MI News 27Jul01 B3
By Barrie Barber


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