K-12 students learn about river ecology and collect data on the health of the Huron River through HRWC’s education program.

Last week Governor Snyder made announcements about water and infrastructure related funding and initiatives. We have been waiting for these proposals for a long time as past protection and cleanup funds are almost depleted. These are positive steps toward addressing aging water-related infrastructure, lack of monitoring and cleanup funds, and preventing future environmental disasters, yet they are small fixes that don’t address the scope and scale of the problems. We support these initiatives going forward even though more is needed.

Governor’s Snyder’s 21st Century Infrastructure report identified Michigan is short $60 billion or $4 billion a year over the next 20 years for infrastructure (water, wastewater, roads, etc). Discussions on replacing the Clean Michigan Initiative (CMI) bond funds have been batted around for the past few years. CMI was a ballot fund passed in 1998 that generated $675 million in bonds for environmental protection and cleanup of contaminated properties. The fund is nearly spent on dozens of successful projects and programs.

Governor Snyder presented a Renew MI proposal that will partially replace CMI.  It will raise $79 million annually and is based on fees (landfill tipping fees), not a bond.  It is unclear to me if it will fund MiCorps, the citizen science lakes and stream monitoring program that HRWC co-leads with the Great Lakes Commission. Funds for this program are fully spent as of the end of 2018.

Governor Snyder made a statement about preventing Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes.  He proposed a partnership with other Great Lakes states and provinces to provide strategic guidance and financial support to the Army Corps of engineers for the implementation of the Brandon Road lock study implementation.

The Governor is also proposing to fund drinking, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure with a state-assessed user fee on public water supply systems. This will raise $110 million annually for 20 years.

There is a looming hurdle for getting the fees for Renew MI and the user fee on public water supply systems passed through this legislature in an election year. Increasing landfill tipping fees was tried years ago with a democratic legislature and it failed. Maybe the Flint and Gelman disasters, the Enbridge oil spill, and other environmental problems have changed people’s minds, but I am skeptical of additional fees and taxes getting passed in this legislature.