The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Farm bill proposals

Written by David Green.



State Line Observer

At a Seneca Township meeting in 2004, area residents discussed the expansion of a hog farm and expressed environmental concerns about the spread of large dairies in the county.

With the state law forbidding discharges that violate water quality standards, it was said, there would always be occasional illegal discharges of manure—unless the law were changed.

That could become a reality.

A series of proposed bills would bring significant change to Michigan agriculture, touching on topics ranging from the discharge of manure into streams to the filing of complaints by citizens. The bills were voted out of the house agriculture committee last month and will move on to a vote by state representatives.

Michigan legislators can’t exempt the state from the federal Clean Water Act. The discharge of pollutants into surface waters is illegal. But one provision in the new bills would provide a partial exemption for agriculture. If manure-laden water runs off a field following a rain or snow melt, the discharge would be reclassified as “agricultural storm water” and no longer be subject to a citation by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

While the bills are receiving strong support from the Michigan Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations, environmental groups are joined by DEQ administrators in voicing opposition.

 At the heart of the new regulations is the transfer of the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) into state statute. Farmers could earn verification through the voluntary MAEAP program and avoid the need to obtain a federal pollutant discharge permit (NPDES).


A nonpartisan study of the bills provided by the House Legislative Analysis Section describes the bills as transferring authority over certain environmental laws concerning the agriculture industry from the DEQ to the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA).

HB 5711: The legislative analysis states that any farming operation verified by MEAEP would not be considered to have violated any provisions in the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act unless the farm or person responsible knowingly and recklessly caused impairment of the natural resources of the state.

In addition, if manure is applied in accordance with a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) developed under MEAEP, any precipitation-related discharge of manure would be considered to be an “agricultural storm water discharge” and exempt from water protection rules.

 HB 5711 is the part of the proposal that has critics referring to the package as a right-to-pollute law. Janet Kauffman of the Bean/Tiffin Watershed Coalition sees big loopholes in the proposed legislation.

“Most discharges in this area occur following the application of liquid manure to tiled fields,” she said. “Now, CAFOs [concentrated animal feeding operations] cannot allow manure to discharge and violate water quality standards. If they do, the DEQ can enforce the law.

“Under these bills, livestock operations could not be charged with a violation because they were ‘within the CNMP’. They know this is wrong, to say that polluted water is not polluted water. This bill would change the most fundamental water protection law we have in Michigan.”

Michigan Farm Bureau officials view the proposal as offering more environmental safeguards than what exists now. Due to a federal court decision, farms cannot be required to obtain an NPDES permit on the potential to pollute, but only after verified discharges.

The new proposal, they say, would offer a proactive approach by helping farmers learn to prevent discharges. In addition, the MEAEP goes beyond the surface water concerns of the NPDES and also addresses issues such as ground water, odor management and emergency planning.

The Sierra Club sees the situation differently. By redefining manure discharges as storm water, a stream could be running black with manure and it would be considered legal.

Robert McCann, spokesperson for the DEQ, said his agency has concerns about the phrase “recklessly and knowingly.”

“You’re setting a pretty high legal standard with that,” he said, adding that the wording is ambiguous and would be difficult to prove.

Rep. Neal Nitz, a sponsor of the bills and chair of the house agriculture committee, described “recklessly and knowingly” as “more of a judgment call than a precise science.”

He was asked how the call would be determined and he stated that neighbors would know a farmer’s normal habits, and if he started doing things differently, they would notice.

He gave the example of a farmer over-applying manure to a field in order to finish the job before an approaching rain. Another example of reckless operation would be knowing about a leaking manure storage unit and doing nothing about it.

Nitz described runoff through tile lines as “not a big problem.”

“The people at MSU are not saying this is a problem,” he said. “It’s the other groups that are saying it’s a problem. I’ll trust MSU.”

Nitz wasn’t aware there are MSU personnel serving as members of a committee studying tile line discharges.

“If GM or Ford were being harassed like production agriculture,” he said in reference to groups monitoring CAFO operations, legislators would have pushed for bills similar to his a long time ago.

Nitz said only a small number of farms will be affected by the proposed legislation.

“It’s not going to protect every farmer in the state,” he said. “There’s only a small number protected under MEAEP verification. It’s a small percentage that will be protected under this.”

However, the Michigan Farm Bureau states that all CAFOs will be required to operate under a CNMP by the end of 2007—either through a federal permit or MEAEP verification.


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