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Senate Appropriations Committee hears testimony on $2.5B water infrastructure bill

faucet running water
Marina Shemesh
Public Domain

The state Senate Appropriations committee Wednesday heard testimony on a bill that would spend $2.5 billion on water infrastructure.

SB 565 is part of the effort to spend billions of remaining dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds left over from the state’s most recent budget.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are still figuring out what an appropriate split with local governments—many of whom have their own funds—would be.

State Senator Jim Stamas (R-Midland) chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said it’s also complicated to coordinate how to pay for projects while there’s the potential of more federal infrastructure money.

“Not only do we need the lead lines replaced, but we still have the health conditions and/or other things to be addressed with it as well. And if we can use these dollars for that and use other dollars towards the actual infrastructure, that’s the challenge of moving too quickly,” Stamas said.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding funding and the bill’s large price tag, Stamas said there’s no timeline yet for advancing it.

“Talking about this type of investment, we need to make sure that we’re working with all the stakeholders in bringing both the governor’s office and the House along in making the right decisions with this type of investment,” Stamas said.

Areas receiving the most money from the bill include dam risk reduction, lead service line replacement, and the state’s Drinking Water Program.

State Senator Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) is the bill’s sponsor. He said it focuses on one-time purchases to address specific issues like potential dam failures.

“It’s a bigger picture than just fixing things. We need to get what river systems, which watersheds, what areas we can address. This money won’t address all those problems, but it’s a good start,” Bumstead said during committee testimony.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development would receive $15 million from the bill to help with conservation efforts while the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy would receive the rest.