The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), a regional planning organization that spans seven counties and includes Detroit, the area’s largest city, is advocating for more funding to make all the improvements the area needs. SEMCOG is federally funded and also receives membership dues.
“We spend $800 million per year to maintain and improve our roads. We need to spend $2 billion per year to get our roads to 80 percent good or fair condition,” said Kelly Karll, SEMCOG’s manager of environment and infrastructure. “We also need to spend $1 billion a year to upgrade our stormwater infrastructure.”
The region has a huge network of watersheds that drain to the Great Lakes. The area has seen a 15 percent increase in precipitation since the 1950s. Yet its stormwater management system is not equipped to handle the additional water.
Lake St. Clair, Michigan. SEMCOG
Karll said there is limited federal funding for transportation and roadway stormwater infrastructure, which presents a challenge for the region. The State of Michigan does not have a revenue stream for improvements related to stormwater management.
“Through SEMCOG, we are advocating for funding mechanisms that would not be taxes, but alternatives to generate funding,” Karll said. “Possibilities include a fee for service for stormwater management, in addition to grants, loans, and state revolving funds.”
State-administered revolving funds could provide low-interest loans for investments in water, sanitary sewer and stormwater infrastructure.
Karll said the region is changing to an asset management approach to strategically address infrastructure improvements across multiple jurisdictions. SEMCOG is also updating the region’s rainfall statistical data.
“This allows local, county and state agencies to make informed decisions about updating stormwater management design standards for all related infrastructure,” she said.
In addition, SEMCOG is working with the Michigan Department of Transportation to conduct a climate resiliency analysis of transportation assets. This includes developing a Flooding Risk Tool to assess roads, bridges, culverts and pump stations.
“This tool will allow agencies to select projects with consideration to those assets most at-risk for flooding,” Karll said. ♦
Jessica Zimmer is a freelance writer based in California.