Michigan Clean Water Investments

Michigan needs a big clean water investment.  Voters should have a chance to vote on a $2 billion bond in November 2018.  But how should the money be invested?  Here’s one proposal. $200 million for capitalization grants to set up community drinking water affordability endowments.  No one should be denied access to clean and safe drinking water because of income.  A state match would spur communities to set up funds to support low-income residents and prevent shutoffs. $200 million for drinking water infrastructure — half grants, half loans. $100 million for a Climate Change Adaptation Fund for water-related design and engineering plans to assist communities in anticipating and responding to the effects of climate change.  (More in a subsequent post.) $1 billion for wastewater infrastructure — half grants, half loans;  for both conventional treatment facilities and — significantly — the first major state commitment to green infrastructure.  This last makes sense on so many levels, including the ecological and the economic. $500 million for a state level Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  If Michigan public officials believe the Great Lakes are worth protecting, they should invest in them directly, rather than asking Congress to shoulder the restoration burden year after year.  The funds would go to purposes comparable to the federal program — cleanup of contaminated hotspots, habitat restoration, combatting invasive species, and...

An Argument for a Michigan Clean Water Bond

Michigan voters should be asked in 2018 to authorize the sale of $2 billion in general obligations for clean water. Why? Because the need exists.  Governor Snyder’s infrastructure task force conservatively estimates a $19 billion water funding gap over the next 20 years. Why?  Because Michigan voters for 50 years have voted resoundingly in favor of well-crafted environmental bonds, all 4 of which were partially or exclusively devoted to clean water. Here’s the history. 1968 $335M wastewater treatment bond:  yes 1,906,385;  no 796,079 1988 $660M ($85M for clean water): yes 2,528,109; no 774,451 1998 $675M ($165M for clean water):  yes 1,821,006;  no, 1,081,988 2002 $1B clean water:  1,774,053;  no. 1,172,612 “Well-crafted” is the key.  More on that in a future...

Climate Weirding and the Great Lakes

One of Northwest Michigan’s Renaissance men, Joe VanderMeulen, is doing a terrific job documenting the way climate change is altering the character of the region, both environmental and cultural. He asked me to write a small piece on the subject, and here’s the result. Excerpt: Climate change is many things, but most of all it is surprise. So are the Great Lakes. Combine their complexity and you are likely to make fools out of anyone who makes flat predictions about how they will interact....

Antidote to America’s Faltering Environmental Policy

This scene from a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan north of Cross Village on Saturday, October 21, will make it possible to persist in the face of a corrupt US EPA and lackluster Michigan environmental policies.  This scene is why we do what we do.  ...

Great Lakes restoration initiative, Junior

Candidates for governor of Michigan are all talking up their commitment to the Great Lakes. They should be offering more than warm fuzzies. As long as the current president remains in the White House, the federal government‘s $300 million per year Great Lakes restoration initiative will be at risk. That’s why the governor of Michigan should be championing a state Great Lakes restoration initiative. Michigan can afford, and the public would support a $300 million a year Great Lakes protection program. But advocates can do even better. They should be agitating with the legislature to place a  $2 billion  clean water bond on the Michigan ballot for November 2018. The public has supported clean water bond programs in 1968,,1988, 1998, and 2002. There’s no reason to think they won’t do it again. But someone has to offer the vision. Michigan once was the leader in Great Lakes protection. It’s time for it to be the leader in more than rhetoric about Great Lakes...

Pass the Salt

Every time I see this decal, I think of another image. It is NOT true that the Great Lakes are unsalted.  In fact, the chloride trend in the Great Lakes is generally upward. Here’s a somewhat dated chart for Lake Michigan. This is part of a broader phenomenon   As one study of North American 371 freshwater lakes put it, “the potential for steady and long-term salinization of these aquatic systems is high.” The study predicted that within 50 years chlorides in many of the studied lakes would exceed EPA water quality standards.  Chloride concentrations in Chicago area rivers are already above “acceptable levels.”  A 2008 study of the Great Lakes found that even if the 2006 level of chlorides going into the Great Lakes remained the same in subsequent years, “concentrations in all lakes will continue to increase with the most dramatic rise occurring in Lake Michigan which will ultimately approach the level of Lake Erie.” That’s a problem.   Since road salt is the cause, I don’t have an...