The governors of four Great Lakes states today urged President Joe Biden to prioritize federal investments in long-neglected water infrastructure to advance environmental sustainability and climate resilience, put Americans to work, and address structural inequities that saddle at-risk communities with some of the nation’s most daunting water infrastructure challenges.
In a letter sent to Biden, which Michigan was the first to sign onto, the governors lauded the American Rescue Plan Act’s $360 billion in direct aid to state and local governments and the inclusion of water and sewer infrastructure as acceptable uses for the federal money. “As your administration continues to develop and pursue its policy agenda, we respectfully encourage you to continue your emphasis on modernizing America’s water infrastructure,” reads the letter.
Maintaining this emphasis will help states create comprehensive water infrastructure programs with local, state and federal resources that can “spur and complement progress on COVID‑19 response, economic recovery, racial equity, climate resilience, and other top administration priorities.”
The letter was signed by governors JB Pritzker of Illinois, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Tim Walz of Minnesota and Tony Evers of Wisconsin.
“As gateways to and guardians of the Great Lakes, we are all dedicated to modernizing and building resilient, climate-conscious water infrastructure,” said Governor Whitmer. “The health of our families, 21% of the world’s fresh drinking water, and 51 million jobs depend on our immediate, collective action. We ask for your partnership and prioritization of critical water infrastructure going forward. We are grateful for the American Rescue Plan’s significant aid to our communities and await the bold infrastructure elements laid out in the Build Back Better plan and proposed in the President’s budget.”
The letter outlines the many challenges of communities struggling to maintain old water treatment and management systems across the Great Lakes states. From dam failures to water main breaks, to emerging pollutants like PFAS and high water levels exacerbated by climate change impacts, states face a daunting array of new challenges to already-stressed systems.
More than $2 trillion in national water infrastructure work will be needed in the next 20 years, the governors told President Biden. “It is time to think big” in order to meet the President’s challenge to “build back better” the letter concludes. “We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you and your team the scale, scope, and contours of a major water infrastructure initiative that would exemplify your commitment.”
View the letter:
Multi-Gov WH Letter on Water Infrastructure.pdf