Karegnondi Water Authority
|Formed||October 26, 2010|
Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) is a municipal corporation responsible for distributing water services in the Mid-Michigan and Thumb areas of the U.S. state of Michigan. Members of the authority are the cities of Flint and Lapeer, and the counties of Genesee, Lapeer and Sanilac. Karegnondi is a word from the Petan Indian language meaning "lake"[fj 2][fj 3] and another early name for Lake Huron.[fj 2]
In 1963, Flint moved to build a pipeline from Lake Huron to Flint, but a profiteering scandal derailed that pipeline. This led the city to sign a contract to purchase water for 30 years from the Detroit Water Department on June 6, 1964.[fj 4]
For years, the City of Flint purchased Lake Huron water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (Detroit Water)[fj 3] under a now expired 30-year contract.[fj 5] Flint resold the water to the Genesee County Drain Commissioner who then sold it to municipalities in the county. Genesee County officials had disliked the high cost and usually high percentage increases of the Detroit Water which the Department's formula penalized the area for its elevation and distance from Detroit.[fj 3] Detroit Water would never open discussions with Genesee County.[fj 6] Sanilac County has never previously had a public water system depending on individual wells instead.[fj 7] The City of Lapeer has been a member of the Greater Lapeer County Utilities Authority (GLCUA) which purchases water from Detroit Water. Future members that are clients of Detroit Water (Flint City, Genesee County and GLCUA) use 10% of the water but pay 21% of the costs.
For years there has been talk amongst Genesee County officials about building a Lake Huron pipeline. The plan would build a pipeline from a 230-acre site located on the Sanilac-St. Clair County border. In 2006, the Genesee County Drain Commission had a feasibility study done which reawakened talk of a new pipeline. While estimated costs of the pipeline is around $600 million, County officials indicated that an authority-owned pipeline would cost less than continued purchasing Detroit water in the long-term.[fj 3]
Karegnondi Regional Water Planning Group
Environmental groups, such as the Michigan Environmental Council and the Flint River Watershed Coalition, indicated in May 2009 that they did not have any issue with the Lake Huron pipeline plan as Genesee County Drain Commission files for the need permits.[fj 9] In June, Cheboygan County Drain Commissioner Dennis G. Lennox II indicated that he might file a lawsuit to revoke a permit to use Lake Huron water if approved by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, believing that Lake Huron's future would be jeopardized. In August 2009, a permit was issued in compliance with the 2008 Great Lakes Compact and Agreement by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for the withdrawal of 85 million gallons per day of water as a public water supply for Genesee County, the City of Flint and other potential customers: the Counties of Lapeer and Sanilac and City of Lapeer.[fj 7] Lennox filed an appeal of the issuance of the permit before the State Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules while in October Cheboygan County Board of Commissioners indicated that they were not supporting Lennox's appeal.[fj 10] On August 17, the Lapeer City Commission unanimously voted to be active in the Karegnondi Planning Group.[fj 11] Lapeer City's estimated share of the cost of $100 million would include a water treatment plant. In late October 2009, representatives for possible authority members met to decide under which state law to form the authority. On November 5, a meeting was held regarding the associated project.[fj 10]
In March 2010, former pipeline supporter and former Genesee County Drain Commissioner Ken Hardin came out against the project, based on the City of Flint's poor financial condition. Instead, he recommended that the county seek a seat on a regional water board with Detroit. A request for bids was issued by the county for testing the Lake Huron pumping station's soil.[fj 5] On March 2, 2010, Lennox filed to withdraw his appeal of the issuance of the water permit to KWA due to limited funds.[fj 12] Lapeer City Commission approved the articles of incorporation in early April. On On April 13, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the articles of incorporation. The Lapeer County Board of Commissioners voted to join the authority on April 24 followed by the Lapeer City Commission and Flint City Council on April 26.[fj 7]
On October 26, 2010,[fj 1] the Karegnondi Water Authority Board of Trustees met for the first time with representatives from the incorporating Cities of Flint (Mayor Dayne Walling), Lapeer (City Manager Dale Kerbyson), and County Drain Commissioners of Genesee (Jeff Wright), Lapeer (John Cosens) and Sanilac (Gregory L. Alexander).[fj 3] Walling was elected chair. While Genesee County Drain Commissioner Wright was selected as the Agency's CEO and replaced on the Board by Genesee County Board of Commissioner Chair Jamie Curtis as Genesee County's representative.[fj 1] Alexander was chosen as vice chair and Amy Planck of Lapeer County for secretary. Ten additional Trustees were to be appointed based on expected water usage.[fj 7]
In May 2011, DTE Energy indicated an interest in buying three million gallons of untreated lake water daily for its Greenwood electrical plant. St. Clair County also indicated that it was considering joining the Authority, while Flint was still considering whether or not to continue as a member.[fj 13] In June, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department negotiated with the KWA. The expected online date of the new pipeline was 2015.[fj 6] On September 7, Rowe Engineering reported to the Flint City Council that the most expensive option was to continue with Detroit Water with the next expensive option was upgrading the City's Flint River plant for 24 hour 7 days a week operations and the least expensive option was the KWA Lake Huron pipeline.[fj 14] With Flint placed under the control of an Emergency Manager in December, the authority wanted a decision by year's end on whether the city would continue with the pipeline.[fj 15]
In May 2012, Genesee County moved to sell 40 acres of the Lake Huron property that the county purchased in 2002 and was expecting to get $350,000 for the land.[fj 8] The 40 acres was sold to the Genesee County Drain Commission in January 2013 for $346,000.[fj 16]
On January 11, 2013, the Authority received the final permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to build the Karegnondi pipeline.[fj 17] In February, L. D'Agostini & Sons was the low bidder ($24.6 million, which is less than the engineers' estimated $27 million) to build the massive intake into Lake Huron.[fj 18] On April 12, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash and County Executive L. Brooks Patterson came out against the KWA water pipeline because of the increased cost burden on remaining customers of the Detroit Water system.[fj 19] L. D'Agostini & Sons again was awarded a contract for the pump station with a bid of $11.05 million (a saving of $2.75 million over estimated).[fj 20]
On March 25, 2013, the Flint City Council approved 7–1 to purchase 16 million gallons per day from the KWA with the lone no vote was to go with Flint River water as a permanent supply. Flint emergency manager Ed Kurtz and Mayor Dayne Walling approved the action on March 29 and forwarded the action for the State Treasurer to approve. The Detroit Water and Sewer Department (DWSD) sent out a press release demanding that the state should block Flint's request, as it would hurt Detroit Water, and start a "water war". The release also outlined 4 options for Flint including the sale of raw untreated water. Genesee County Drain Commissioner Wright replied that: "It would be unprecedented for the state to force one community to enter into an agreement with another, simply to artificially help one community at the other's expense. This is exactly what the (Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) is arguing should be done. If the DWSD was serious they would contact the appropriate officials instead of negotiating through the media." On April 15, State Treasurer Andy Dillon gave approval to Kurtz to enter into a water purchase contract with the KWA.[fj 21] EM Kurtz signed the KWA water purchase agreement on April 16. On April 17, the Detroit Water and Sewer Department gave its one year termination notice to the city just days after the County and City rejected the DWSD' last offer. The DWSD expected Flint to pay them for "'stranded costs,' or past investments in the water system that have benefited customers in this area." Flint and Genesee rejected such responsibility, although they would be will to purchase some pipeline. Governor Rick Snyder called a meeting of the three parties for April 19.[fj 21]
On Friday, June 28, 2013, a ground breaking ceremony for the pipeline project took place at the authority's Lake Huron property.[fj 22]
The authority entered final negotiations in September 2013 on an agreement for American Cast Iron Pipe Company to supply 67 miles of spiral weld and iron pipe, additional fittings, bends, reducers and hydrant tees with the final cost expected to be $84.1 million while the estimated cost was $104 million. Two other bids were received from Northwest Pipe ($81.2 million) and Hansen Pipe ($101.8 million).[fj 23] An August 1 Genesee County $53 million Bond sale was postponed due to the City of Detroit filing for bankruptcy.[fj 24] The county sold $35 million in bonds in September that were delayed from August.[fj 25]
On October 16, 2013, ten additional trustees were added to the board of trustees: former state House Minority Leader Richard Hammel; Johsua Freeman, Flint City Council; Larry Green, Mt. Morris Township supervisor; Ted Henry, Genesee County commissioner; Micki Hoffman, Grand Blanc Township supervisor; Steve Landaal, president of Landaal Packaging; Sheldon Neeley, Flint City Council; Thomas Svcek, Swartz Creek Department of Public Works director; Tracey Tucker, Flint Township building administrator; and Paula Zelenko, mayor of Burton.[fj 26]
In early December 2013, a German-made micro-tunnel boring machine was scheduled to begin the horizontally drilling out 60 feet below Lake Huron and would take 30 months to complete.[fj 27]
In March 2014, the KWA put out to market $220 million in bonds with excellent ratings from the credit rating agencies putting interest rates to about 5% or lower.[fj 25] The City of Flint began its temporary use of Flint River water as its primary source of drinking water on April 25, 2014 while Genesee County continued to purchase from Detroit water.[fj 28] The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Karegnondi Water Authority began discussion in April regarding how to proceed with protected endangered Northern riffleshell in the Black River in Sanilac County which might force the authority to move from an open-cut to the more expensive boring under the river.
In May 2014, the Imlay City area intermediate pump station construction was awarded to E&L Construction Group at a bid price of $11.78 million, $6.82 million less than the estimated $18.6 million.[fj 29] In June, Zito Construction Company, of Grand Blanc, Michigan, won a pipeline contract for installing iron transmission main along the line. Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley finalized the sale of an Eastern Genesee County 9-mile section of water pipeline to Genesee County for $3.9 million. This pipeline feeds Detroit water to the county and after the Huron pipeline is active would service the Eastern part of the county.[fj 28]
Meanwhile, the City of Flint was having problems with its water system rising to a crisis, having to issue boil water notices, issue warning notices for a year over a one time spike in TTMs, culminating in find lead in the system. Flint returned to the Detroit water system announced on October 8, 2015.
The authority board met on November 25, 2015 to elect new leadership. Newly elected Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, Flint City Councilman Eric Mays and Laura Sullivan were all new board members at that meeting. With Flint Mayor Walling losing his election, Mayor Weaver nominated herself as chair due to Walling previously holding the position. Instead, current vice chair & Sanilac Drain Commissioner Alexander was selected chair with Genesee County Commission chair Curtis was selected as vice chair.[fj 30]
- Sioui, Georges E. Huron-Wendat. Jane Brierley. UBC Press, 2000;ISBN 0-7748-0715-6. Retrieved 2009-03-12.
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- Fonger, Ron (May 3, 2007). "Genesee, Oakland counties adopt historic name for water group". The Flint Journal. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Fonger, Ron (October 23, 2010). "Years in the making, Karegnondi Water Authority is ready to set new course for water". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Ron, Fonger (November 12, 2012). "50 years later: Ghosts of corruption still linger along old path of failed Flint water pipeline". Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- Fonger, Ron (April 1, 2010). "Former Genesee County drain commissioner: We can't afford a new water pipeline". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Fonger, Ron (June 20, 2011). "Pushing pause on the water pipeline: Flint, Genesee County return to talks with Detroit". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Shaw, Liz (August 28, 2009). "State Department of Environmental Quality issues permit for Lake Huron water withdrawal". Flint Journal. Retrieved 6 December 2011. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "fj2" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
- Fonger, Ron (May 9, 2012). "Genesee County preparing for sale of land for Lake Huron pipeline to Karegnondi Water Authority". Retrieved June 17, 2014.
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- Fonger, Ron (November 5, 2009). "Cheboygan County administrator: Lennox doesn't speak for us on Genesee County pipeline". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Shaw, Liz (August 21, 2009). "Lapeer joins regional water system agency for proposed Genesee County pipeline to Lake Huron". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Fonger, Ron (March 2, 2010). "Cheboygan County drain commissioner backs down in appeal of Genesee County's Lake Huron water withdrawal permit". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Fonger, Ron (May 10, 2011). "DTE Energy tells new regional authority it may want 3 million gallons of Lake Huron water daily". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Longley, Kristin (September 7, 2011). "Report: Buying in to new water pipeline from Lake Huron cheaper for Flint drinking water than treating river water". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Fonger, Ron (December 6, 2011). "Genesee County, others wait to see whether emergency manager will allow for Flint investment in water pipeline". The Flint Journal. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- "Genesee County drain commissioner pays $346,000 for Lake Huron pipeline property". January 23, 2013. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
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- Fonger, Ron (February 28, 2013). "Low bid is $24.6 million on Genesee County-Lake Huron water pipeline intake". Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- Fonger, Ron (April 15, 2013). "Oakland County executives call KWA pipeline 'huge waste of taxpayer dollars'". Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- Fonger, Ron (April 23, 2014). "Low bid on KWA pump station comes in $2.8 million under estimate". Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- Fonger, Ron (April 19, 2013). "Detroit gives notice: It's terminating water contract covering Flint, Genesee County in one year". Flint Journal. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
- Byron, Shaun (June 28, 2013). "KWA construction starts soon, pipeline may not reach Genesee County until 2015". Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- Fonger, Ron (September 23, 2013). "KWA board aims to cut construction time with $84 million contract for Flint-to-Lake Huron water pipe". Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- Byron, Shaun (August 1, 2013). "Genesee County postpones $53 million bond sale following Detroit's bankruptcy filing". Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- Fonger, Ron (March 26, 2014). "Credit agencies bullish on Genesee County and $220 million in KWA water pipeline borrowing". Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- Fonger, Ron (October 17, 2013). "10 members added to expanded Karegnondi Water Authority Board". Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- Young, Molly (November 26, 2013). "Karegnondi Water Authority prepares to drill 1.5 miles into Lake Huron for new water pipeline to Flint". Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- Ron, Fonger (June 12, 2014). "Emergency manager accepts $3.9 million Genesee County offer to buy Flint-owned pipeline". The Flint Journal (Mlive Media Group). Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- Emery, Amanda (May 23, 2014). "Low bid on KWA pump station comes in $6.82 million under estimate". Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- Ketchum III, William E. (November 25, 2015). "KWA picks Sanilac drain commissioner as chief, new Flint mayor tries for the job". The Flint Journal (Mlive Media Group). Retrieved January 11, 2016.