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Gov: $5 Per Water Customer For $110M In Infrastructure Fixes

February 6, 2018

Gov. Rick Snyder’s final proposal last week: Putting a $5-a-customer fee on public water systems to come up with $110 million to fix up the state’s water infrastructure. 

The Governor called the state’s water infrastructure “failing” and said it’s time to fix water mains and replace lead service lines. 

To do so, he’s proposing starting off with a $1 per-head, per-year assessment on public water system customers in 2020, eventually ramping up to $5 a person in 2024. This assessment would affect public water systems that serve 1,000 people or more. 

Once it’s at $5 per person, that would add about 2 percent to an annual water bill, Snyder’s office estimated. 

The proposal would end by 2040 and about 80 percent of it would be dumped right back into the region from which it came, the Governor’s office said. 

The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) was pleased with the idea. MEC President Chris Kolb said that 75 percent of Michigan’s residents rely on public water systems, “but many communities lack the resources to rebuild their aging infrastructure and keep drinking water safe,” he said in a statement. 

“This plan would allow for more preventative maintenance — helping to keep Michigan residents safe by preventing disasters before they happen,” Kolb said. 

The Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association (MITA), which has been pushing for just such an investment, called Snyder’s proposal a “huge step forward to increase investment in our underground infrastructure.” 

Still, figures released by both Snyder’s office and MITA acknowledged that an additional $110 million annually isn’t all that’s needed, funding-wise. 

Snyder’s own infrastructure commission reported there’s an $800 million annual funding gap to “meet our state’s critical water and sewer infrastructure needs.” 

MITA cited “reports” that say Michigan is under-investing in its drinking water infrastructure by anywhere from $280 million to $560 million annually. 

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters (MLCV) noted this gap in its criticism of Snyder’s plan, calling it “an incremental step that only addresses about 10 percent of the overall funding needed.” 

“While a minor step in the right direction, the Governor’s water infrastructure proposal is literally a drop in the bucket given the enormous challenges facing Michigan’s water, Great Lakes and inland lakes, rivers and streams,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the MLCV, in a statement. “We call on the Legislature to use this as a starting point to craft a broad, all-hands-on-deck strategy for dealing with Michigan’s monumental water crisis.” 

The Michigan Municipal League (MML) was at a briefing held by Snyder today on the plan. The organization noted in a blog that “many of the specific details need to be worked out” and that “ultimately that legislature will need to approve it.” 

“The League made it a point to express our appreciation to the Governor for his efforts to invest in water infrastructure, but illustrated that this is only one component of local government and that we need to continue to work on our overall fiscal stability,” wrote John LaMacchia, assistant director of state and federal affairs for the MML. “We also highlighted the need for continued investment in communities because the creation of great places is the key component in attracting talent, which leads to attracting business.” 

Snyder’s plan envisioned the $110 million being split up in these ways: 

– The state capital investment program would see $75 million, which provides grants for local infrastructure improvements such as lead service line replacements, as well as low-interest and forgivable loans for other local capital improvements. 

– The emergency infrastructure failure fund would get $10 million, which provides grants for communities and systems in financial need with emerging water or sewer failures. 

– Integrated asset management efforts would see $25 million to fund asset management plans for drinking water wastewater and stormwater systems and support data collection, materials inventory, and training needs. 

This marked day four in Snyder’s week of initiatives that he said he’d roll out in his State of the State. Monday was broadband, Tuesday was recycling and environmental clean-up, and Wednesday was Asian carp. 

Last Friday’s issue involves stepping up Michigan’s recycling rates.

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