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State Democratic lawmakers propose $5 billion plan to deal with climate change-caused flooding

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Democratic lawmakers have announced a plan to fund repairs to Michigan’s aging infrastructure. They’re calling a “bold” climate resilience plan and water infrastructure investment.

“Today we are proposing a $5 billion investment to focus on upgrading our clean water, storm and wastewater management systems to meet this increasing load brought about by our ongoing climate emergency,” said Senator Roesmary Bayer.

They held the news conference in an east side Detroit neighborhood where there’s been frequent flooding. The legislators noted the increasing number of floods that sewer systems can’t handle end up in people’s basements and carrying sewage into rivers and the Great Lakes.

The Democrats’ plan includes upgrading water and sewer systems and help with failing septic systems that are polluting lakes and rivers. It calls for back-up pumps and power sources in areas that are becoming more prone to flooding. Senator Stephanie Chang says state government needs to do more than react to the latest neighborhood floods.

“It’s not enough to help after climate change-caused flooding events; we need to act with urgency and acknowledge the reality that these extreme weather events are increasing in frequency.”

Additionally, the Democrats want to create a Climate Resilience Corps, which would be a training and apprenticeship program to work on climate change-caused problems. The proposal would also require planning policies that would require new and reconstructed infrastructure to be designed to minimize or eliminate flooding. It also includes expanding the types of weatherization projects eligible for government funding.

Senator Jeff Irwin says the state could raise the money to pay for the plan through bonds.

“Michigan has plenty of bonding capacity. That’s how we did it 20 years ago when Democrats and Republicans came together on the Clean Michigan Initiative. We could absolutely take that same path,” he explained.

Irwin also said Republican-introduced legislation has some of the same goals as the Democrats’ plan. Howver, the Republican plan would cost an estimated $2.5 billion. Irwin believes there will be some kind of a bipartisan agreement.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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