The Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association expressed its support today for efforts to increase the utilization of the Great Lakes Water Quality Bonds approved by voters in 2002. The proposal designated $1 billion to repair and replace municipal sewer systems and to date only $1.5 million has been used.
Legislation, HB 4572 and HB 4573, was approved by the Michigan House of Representatives this afternoon that will allow local communities to use portions of the available funds as grants to cover studies and engineering projects that are necessary to get much-needed upgrades underway. Currently, the bond funds can only be applied to the actual improvements and many municipalities consider the upfront costs as one barrier to the increased utilization of the bonds.
“Making the most of the Great Lakes Water Quality Bonds will create good-paying jobs and help protect the environment,” said Mike Nystrom, vice president of government and public relations for MITA. “This legislation is one important component of a plan that will encourage communities to take advantage of this powerful economic tool and allow them to more efficiently manage natural resources.”
In January, MITA created a task force to examine how to assist communities in maximizing the use of the bonds. The group — which includes representatives of local governments, environmentalists and businesses — has been meeting regularly and expects to release a comprehensive report this spring.