TRAVERSE CITY — Gov. Rick Snyder is asking legislators to approve more than $100 million to protect and restore Michigan’s waters through measures ranging from beach monitoring to upgrading sewage infrastructure, aides said Friday.
The fiscal 2015 budget Snyder presented this month heralds a yearlong emphasis on water — recognizing its importance to economic development and the advantage that Michigan’s vast aquatic resources provide over competing states, said Dan Wyant, director of the Department of Environmental Quality.
“Water will be the key reason why people will come to Michigan to live, work and play,” he said. “It’s going to be a catalyst for new technology and job creation.”
The administration’s “water strategy” will be released this spring that will lay out broad goals and strategies for achieving them over the next 30 years, Office of the Great Lakes director Jon Allan said. It will deal with long-standing issues such as invasive species, toxic pollution, large-scale water withdrawals for uses such as irrigation and manufacturing, and conflicts between users.
The budget seeks $3.9 million to implement the strategy and for more immediate water quality needs, including regularly checking beaches for unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria and operating the state’s wetlands protection program. Among other funding requests are $3 million for cleanup of underground storage tank leaks and $1 million to help cities and businesses prevent pollution.
The biggest proposal is for $97 million for a second consecutive year to provide grants and loans to local governments to fix crumbling sewer systems. That money was generated under a bond authority approved in 2002.
Snyder’s budget also for next year requests $3 million from the fund for “wetland mitigation banks,” artificial wetlands that compensate for those lost to development. Additionally, it seeks $5 million — twice as much as last year — to match up to $25 million in federal funds for upgrading drinking water infrastructure.