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State announces $1.9 billion in loans, grants to improve water infrastructure

flooding at a park
Corey Seeman
Flooding at a park in Saline, Michigan in 2020. Flooding is one environmental issue exacerbated by climate change and outdated infrastructure, which the state says it hopes to mitigate with federal funding.

Michigan has historically had a “D-” rating for water-related infrastructure, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. This rating includes poor drinking water and stormwater systems.

But new federal funding offers communities an opportunity to update infrastructure. The funding is through the American Rescue Plan Act and Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act, and it’s meant to support drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems.

Liesl Clark is the Director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. At EGLE’s Environmental Emergency Management Conference this week, she addressed state officials and emergency-related groups on the importance of updated infrastructure to reduce risks.

“[We want to] figure out whenever possible, how to better prepare ourselves from a resiliency perspective for the changing climate that we're having, so that we can reduce the emergency costs, in the emergency challenges and response,” Clark said.

She said Michigan needs $800 million dollars for infrastructure investments every year to stay “up to par.”

“This is 1.9 billion, which is great, however, it's not going to take care of all of our problems in Michigan,” Clark said. “But it should be a really good momentum builder over the next couple of years with that type of investment.”

Clark said funding in the form of grants and loans will be available to communities later this year and through 2023. Communities can learn if they qualify for funding on EGLE’s website.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.