LANSING, Mich., March 17, 2022 – Representative Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) has joined a bill package with Representative Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan) and Representative Dave Martin (R-Davison) to update the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to help more rural communities qualify.  The state loan programs will see a significant increase in federal dollars from the American Rescue Fund Act this year that will allow local government the opportunity to replace and update water mains and lead service lines. Representative Cambensy had the following to say about the bill package:

“The goal of this legislation is to align portions of both acts while reducing the burden of the application process that has severely limited our most rural communities from doing their infrastructure assessments and qualifying. The scoring and eligibility criteria for these grants haven’t been updated in decades, and we wanted to make sure the communities that need this funding the most can compete for the dollars on a level playing field.”

As background, Part 53 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act deals with clean water (CWSRF) and Part 54 deals with drinking water (DWSRF).

House Bills 5890-5892 will attempt to address:

– Allowing more types of documents to qualify when applying for a project, at EGLE’s discretion, to avoid the need for costly engineering studies in all circumstances. Many communities cannot spend thousands of dollars on an engineering study for a smaller loan amount. Also, some projects are very straightforward and don’t need a lengthy study process, such as replacing old water mains or lead service lines.

– Generating a streamlined public hearing process for projects that is similar between parts 53 and 54.

– Greater flexibility for EGLE in loan forgiveness with the new influx of federal funds. Additionally, allow the department to more aggressively set rates at their discretion.

– Updates to the “disadvantaged community” definition to reflect newer federal terminology (now called an “overburdened community”) and greater use of SRF to aid communities with affordability issues.

– Allowing EGLE to update the scoring criteria on a 3-year basis without a cumbersome rulemaking or statutory amendment process to reflect changing needs of communities. Current scoring criteria for loans are largely fixed in state law. For example, current law scores lead service line replacement among the lowest, when it’s one of the greatest needs in many communities.

– Strikes language that references long outdated federal programs and requirements.

The bill package is the result of a workgroup that was put together to address many of the concerns that elected officials had with the programs from around the state, particularly in the Upper Peninsula. Committee hearings on the bill package are expected to begin in April.