Michigan seeking $1 billion for sewer
With beach closings
common, ballot measure's passage seen as likely
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
their own rash of beach closings on inland lakes as well
as along the Lake Michigan shoreline, Michigan conservationists
hope state voters will approve a referendum measure Tuesday
to raise $1 billion over the next decade to fix the state's
aging sewer systems.
"It's a terrible
problem," said Dan Farough of the Michigan chapter of
the Sierra Club. "It's taken a long time for the political
pressure to become what it is -- that Michigan's Republican-controlled
Senate and House decided it would be a good idea to back
policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council,
said the proposal made it to the ballot after being approved
by a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature,
and it has the backing of both major party candidates
Now a simple
majority of voters must also approve it, something Clift
predicts will happen. He said the most recent poll shows
that the measure has about a 60% voter approval rating.
The money would
be borrowed over at least 10 years, Clift said. It will
be repaid through the state's general fund.
"There is broad
support for it from both parties," Clift said. "The people
in Michigan understand the importance of protecting the
The fund will
provide low-interest loans to communities to upgrade outdated
sewer systems, many of which were built three or four
outside the state are keeping a keen eye on the issue.
staff attorney for the Chicago-based Lake Michigan Federation,
said the plan "is something to think about" for other
Great Lakes states.
closings because of pollution have doubled in recent years.
Most believe the jump is caused, at least in part, by
increased water-quality monitoring.
diminish the problem.
plagued eastern Wisconsin's Lake Michigan shoreline late
this summer. For the first time in memory, beaches all
over Door County were shut down because of high levels
of E. coli. Nobody knows the source of the contamination,
though many pointed to faulty private septic systems and
holding tanks as likely culprits.
the lake's shoreline also stretched down to Milwaukee,
where the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District has
a history of releasing sewage during heavy storms.
But not everybody
thinks borrowing a big chunk of money is the best solution.
"A billion dollars
is a lot of money to throw around," said Diane Katz, of
the Midland, Mich.-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy,
which advocates free-market solutions to public policy
"I'm not arguing
we don't need new sewer (systems) and clean water. I'm
arguing this is not the most effective or efficient method
to get it," she said.
Katz said the
communities that have problem sewer systems, not state
taxpayers in general, should be responsible for fixing