My wife, Shirley, and I recently returned from the 2017 Michigan Ground Water Association Convention (MGWA). This was the 89th annual convention, held near Traverse City, Mich., on March 9 and 10. All events, including displays, were held near the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, which is actually in Acme, Mich., a few miles northeast of Traverse City. Both these towns are in northwest Lower Michigan and are known to be in the so called snow belt, as they are close to Lake Michigan. This was my 60th consecutive MGWA Convention and my 65th overall, and Shirley has been to almost that many.
The convention got off to a good and quick start on March 9 with seminars beginning at 8 a.m. Although some folks were still driving in, attendance at all the seminars was quite good — much better, in fact, than 2016. The first seminar was the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) sponsored McEllhiney lecture. This was presented by my good friend Michael Schnieders from Ottawa, Kan. He discussed how certain parameters of a well operation can be used to predict future maintenance issues and, in fact, the lifespan of the well. He did a really good job on an interesting subject, and he indicated that some specs now call for a well life of 75 to 100 years.
The next presentation was a legislative update on the state of affairs in Lansing by Mike Frederick, MGWA’s lobbyist. He joined us about a year ago and is doing a nice job. MGWA has an aggressive agenda in Lansing and, although the wheels of government turn slowly at times, I feel we are making real progress. Frederick also updated us with information about Michigan’s term limits, which are the most severe in the nation.
Following the legislative information was an update from our Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which is the regulatory agency for water well drillers and pump installers in Michigan. This was a good presentation by Matt Gamble of the DEQ staff. Gamble had a few problems with his AV equipment, but had an interesting and informative session.
This used the entire morning of March 9 and lunch was on our own. First up in the afternoon was a session by our Department of Transportation (DOT) that I, frankly, did not attend. I must agree with another longtime member and past present, as I also am, that the DOT can pull over and ticket almost any rig, pump hoist, water truck or other service vehicle any time they want. This may seem kind of fatalistic but is, in fact, the truth.
After the DOT session attendees were treated to a presentation by a woman from New York City, I believe, on how to be a better speaker. She, like all presenters of this day, did a good job. This completed the seminars for the day.
A cocktail hour was held at 5 p.m. followed by the annual banquet and then a casino night. For personal reasons, Shirley and I did not attend any of these events.
March 10 got off to another quick start with the annual business meeting of MGWA. This was a little different, in that all four membership divisions were present. Attendance was really quite good and each division held its own elections for directors and officers. We had a good update from our state geologist, John Yellich, who is a professor at Western Michigan University, on some matters in a particular county that borders Lake Michigan. We also had an update by Steve Anderson, president of Merrill Manufacturing Co., on national legislation passed in Washington. This meeting lasted almost 2½ hours, but was interesting and worthwhile.
At noon, a free lunch was served on the tradeshow floor. The menu was tacos and cookies and it was quite tasty — the price being right. The tradeshow consisted of about 40 exhibit booths, which included most all of our regulars and a few exhibitors we hadn’t seen for a while. All exhibits were inside and included a used drill rig, a used pump hoist and two brand new cabs and chassis, a 5500 Dodge and a 550 Ford. Drawings were held starting at about 3:30 p.m., and the convention closed at 4 p.m. Attendance numbers were not announced, but the leadership I talked to were pleased with overall attendance. Like most recent conventions, there were not very many new products to see in the exhibit booths.
Overall, this was a really good event and I don’t believe I have ever been to a bad convention, whether state, regional or national. It was good to see some old friends who we see once a year nowadays and we all seem to be getting older — imagine that.
Weather in northern Michigan was clear and cold and we had some light snow to drive in as we came home on March 11. On March 8, the day we headed to Traverse City, we had as bad a winds as I have ever seen in Michigan — this resulted in massive damage to buildings and trees and long power outages for some. Since then, we have had a pretty good snow storm but that has pretty much melted and my well known grass is looking a bit green. Until next time, if your state association convention is coming up make plans to go. It will be worth your time. If it is passed for this year, consider going to the South Atlantic Jubilee and for sure the 2017 NGWA Groundwater Week.
For more John Schmitt columns, visit www.thedriller.com/schmitt.