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Posted 27 Aug 2001   For week ended August 24, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 25Aug01

By Rosemary Pollock

Saginaw, Michigan LDS Farm Considering Appeal of Judge's Water Ruling

SAGINAW, MICHIGAN -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Walther &Sons Farms are considering an appeal against a recent court ruling by Saginaw County Circuit Judge William A. Crane's decision on Tuesday that ordered them to each pay $4,000 to the 22 families living within a half-mile of either farms that are without well water. Lawyers for both western Saginaw County corporate farms deny any connection between their water use for agricultural irrigation and the residents water woes and called court's action "inappropriate."

The County Department of Public Health had asked the court to intervene last month when as many as 68 property owners in Fremont, Jonesfield, Lakefield and Richland townships reported problems drawing water. It is believed that a dry summer and old, inadequate wells are the chief causes behind the water loss.

"The farms haven't broken any laws," said Michael J. Brown, a Lansing attorney for Clio-based Walther &Sons Farms. "We don't have a factual record being completed to verify any of these allegations," Brown added. The $4,000 that was awarded will cover the cost of 1,000-gallon water storage tanks on residents' land.

Results of a $100,000 ground water study by the U.S. Geological Society are expected in October to bolster the stance of the two farms. "The two farms have the option of suing to recover the $8,000 if evidence supports their position," Judge Crane said.

"Crane's ruling was a bitter pill for those outside the half-mile ring. People as far as a mile and a half away from the farms have suffered water loss," said Carolyn J. Allen, a spokeswoman for the 33 property owners who have filed additional law suits. "It is a victory, but it's like a bittersweet victory." "I'm not happy with the half-mile ruling for the people to get water."

County Attorney Peter C. Jensen reported that he had only enough evidence to prove that property owners within a half-mile area were the only ones heavily affected by the irrigation. Brown argued in court that those property owners seeking relief through a civil lawsuit should stay out of this dispute. The court has not set a hearing date for the civil suits.

"We don't believe that we've done anything wrong or the county's lawsuit has any merit," Black said. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has tried to help residents without water but "ethically" cannot aid those who have filed a lawsuit against The Church. "In our view, these lawsuits are a hindrance in our effort to help the neighbors," he said.


The water will flow for some in western Saginaw County
Saginaw MI News 22Aug01 B1
By Barrie Barber


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