Support Urged for Water Infrastructure
Legislation is working its way through the U.S. Congress that would help communities in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan finance the cost of separating storm and sanitary sewer systems. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed one version and now Senate Bill 1005 (Water Infrastructure Financing Act) is up for debate. (To read the bill click here.) The Maumee River Basin Partnership of Local Governments (MRBPLG) and the Northwest Ohio Mayors and Managers Association (NOMMA) are two regional groups that are pressing for passage of the bill and urging elected officials to contact their representatives in the U.S. Senate during this session. Sample letters and other tools are here.
Cities and villages in northwest Ohio are struggling to meet EPA requirements to separate storm and sanitary sewer systems. Everyone agrees on the need to separate systems to prevent untreated sewage from reaching waterways, but the cost is staggering and communities already struggling cannot afford to pay for it.
Fremont Mayor Terry Overmyer says, “The only way to pay for the improvements is to borrow money and raise utility rates to cover debt service. The Clean Water Act does not adequately consider the economic impact of mandated sewerage projects.” The federal mandate for the City of Fremont is to reduce annual combined sewer overflows from an average of 50 events now to four or less. The estimated cost for sewer updates is roughly $88 million for the city and its 9,000 users. The Water Infrastructure Financing Act would make more communities eligible for loans, create more favorable terms for loans, and extend the payback period.