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Michigan is implementing solutions for infrastructure

New water main being installed as part of municipal drinking water infrastructure upgrades.Fresh on the heels of EGLE's Great Lakes Water Infrastructure Conference, MI Environment is highlighting the actions taken to address infrastructure challenges in Michigan as outlined by EGLE Director Liesl Clark in an article in the State of the Great Lakes report and in the recently signed bipartisan Building Michigan Together Plan.

Recent wet weather and high-water levels have given communities a sobering taste of the challenges we face in an age of climate-linked extreme weather. Driven by more frequent intense storms, all that water has put lives at risk, caused major property damage and left local governments and Michiganders with massive repair bills.

Climate change and water events have laid bare Michigan's underinvestment in infrastructure. It was evident in the dam failures in Edenville and Sanford and as we watched high water encroach on private property and public infrastructure, crumbling roads and homes in its path. Last summer's storms overwhelmed under-built systems that couldn't keep up, flooding roads and basements and sending sewage into waterways and ultimately into the Great Lakes.

This year's State of the Great Lakes report focuses on the activities and programs that are implementing solutions for the problems Michigan is facing. It is vital that we respond to current issues and get ahead of challenges that promise to grow without action on our part. From resilient communities to sustainable water use and groundwater challenges, the report emphasizes the interconnectivity of Michigan's waters.

The year 2021 marked a turning point when it comes to investment into our water infrastructure, advancing progress to decarbonize our economy and increase the resiliency of our state.

  • The Council on Climate Solutions is working on implementation of the MI Healthy Climate plan to create a roadmap to 100% decarbonization by 2050.
  • EGLE's Catalyst Communities program is providing training and technical assistance to local leaders who will chart climate resilient paths forward.
  • The Michigan Coastal Management Program launched its Coastal Leadership Academy to bring together community leaders and planners to address coastal resilience challenges.

Investments in climate change adaptation, mitigation, and resiliency strategies will save taxpayer dollars in the long run. According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, for every $1 invested in federal mitigation grants, taxpayers can save $6.

All this investment is being done with overburdened and low-income communities in mind. Wise climate solutions can advance equity and environmental justice across Michigan communities. Michigan's march to decarbonize over the next three decades can make the Great Lakes State a better state.

The time is right to rebuild Michigan's infrastructure to address current challenges and provide a strong base for our economic growth moving forward. With an eye toward protecting Michiganders' health and environment, EGLE's 1,300 staffers who work alongside me are carrying out that mission - from groundwater, to surface waters, to the Great Lakes.

We can expect great progress to be made through implementation of the Building Michigan Together Plan, which Governor Whitmer signed in March 2022. Guiding principles for the funding include:

  • Addressing environmental and public health priorities
  • Decreasing the cost of treatment, collecting, and distributing
  • Prioritizing funding to communities implementing asset management plans
  • Prioritizing funding to disadvantaged communities
  • Facilitating economic growth in communities while fostering sustainability and resiliency
  • Supporting the dig-once philosophy

The plan includes:

  • More than $1 billion for drinking water improvements, including:
  • At least $325 million to replace lead service lines, including 100% of lead service lines in Benton Harbor.
  • $55 million to help communities tackle toxic contaminants like PFAS.
  • $43 million in assistance for small and disadvantaged communities.
  • $712 million for clean water initiatives to address storm and wastewater including:
  • $$669 million for clean water infrastructure.
  • $35 million for loans to help repair failing septic systems.
  • $20 million for public health risk reduction.
  • $8 million to address emerging contaminants.
  • $210 million to repair dams in Midland and Gladwin counties and another $40 million to address the repair, renovation, or elimination of dams statewide.

Caption: New water main being installed as part of municipal drinking water infrastructure upgrades.

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