News Briefs: Michigan Creates Nation's First Coordinated Infrastructure Commission

Also in this week's sewer and water news, the 25 largest unpaid water bills in New Orleans owe a collective $3 million; and Flint appeals to the federal government for new water meters

Michigan is first state in the nation to implement a coordinated effort to better manage the state’s drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, transportation and private utilities under legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

“Having sound and modern infrastructure is vital to the health and well-being of the people of Michigan,” Snyder says. “This legislation helps us take the necessary steps to ensure Michigan has a modern and reliable infrastructure system.”

In his 2016 State of the State Address, Snyder called for the creation of the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission to develop 30- to 50-year recommendations for Michigan’s transportation, drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, electric, gas and broadband entities to improve the state’s infrastructure.

The 27-member commission worked for seven months to provide a long-term, comprehensive set of infrastructure recommendations aimed at improving our infrastructure across all asset types. Recommendations prioritized a healthy environment; reliable, high-quality service; economic prosperity; and value for investment.

In addition to sector-specific recommendations, there were overarching themes such as a statewide culture of asset management, encouraging and facilitating coordinated planning, working to ensure sustainable funding, and embracing emerging technologies.

Once these bills are implemented, Michigan will lead the nation by creating a statewide asset management database and program that will address each of these four areas and will help communities to better plan and invest in their systems. This approach to integrated and holistic infrastructure planning helps prioritize public health and creates a strong foundation for our communities.

According to a recent report by The New Orleans Advocate, delinquencies on water bills in New Orleans total at least $13.5 million, but it’s unclear whether the city is really owed that money.

Reporters asked the water utility for a list of its 25 largest unpaid bills, and 21 of them were being disputed.

“We need to be able to wrap our arms around how much is really owed to the agency so we can give a real accounting to the public of whether the Sewerage & Water Board is doing its job,” New Orleans City Councilman Joe Giarrusso told the newspaper.

When it’s added up, the total amount owed by just those 25 customers is about $3 million.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recently told the U.S. EPA in a letter that updating the city’s meters would help generate revenue and combat water theft.

“Without this additional revenue, the city will be unable to hire the proper staffing to reliably treat the purchased Great Lakes Water Authority water … and monitor/maintain water quality in the distribution system,” reads the letter, addressed from DEQ Division Director Eric Oswald.

“Additionally, without the proper level of revenue, long-term capital investment will return to the precrisis levels where infrastructure issues contributed to water quality/water age challenges.”


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