Reality check: Budget cuts could spell doom for environmental cleanup projects around Michigan

June 9, 2017
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A Republican-led conference committee pushing to set the Michigan budget for the next fiscal year late last week approved a big gash in environmental cleanup spending, a $15-million cut. Cuts to the overall budget for the Department of Environmental Quality amount to $9.7 million, according to Associated Press reports.

When coupled with drastic cuts as proposed on the federal level, the Great Lakes State is in the crosshairs of a perfect storm — so, too, are projects like those proposed for Grand River Whitewater, focused in downtown, which have evolved to a holistic river revitalization.

Legislative reality checks are necessary and should include the very real, long-term impact of the Flint water crisis to the east, sand mining and dune development on the west and, most especially, the Enbridge Line 5 violations to the north in the Straits of Mackinac.

GOP legislators continue to hunt dollars for the sake of state income tax cuts, even after the revenue estimates from the budget office indicate shortfalls as much as $492 million (as indicated by the Senate Fiscal Agency in May). The shortfalls, tax cuts thought to benefit businesses and personal and corporate income tax revenues at lower than expected levels give legislators reason to pause for a reset with reality. DEQ pilfering is shortsighted in “pure” Michigan.

The Business Journal features an update of issues related to the Whitewater project. There are significant delays to account for environmental risks. One of those involves the river ecosystem and prevention of sea lamprey infestation and preservation of the endangered snuffbox mussels.

The nonprofit organization Grand Rapids Whitewater, headed by founder Matt Chapman, is working with the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council, the regional governing body representing Allegan, Montcalm, Ionia, Ottawa, Barry and Kent counties. Chapman notes for Business Journal readers, “Recreation is certainly still a component of (the project), but much more of it is focused on making the river a better place for the animals and creatures that live in it as well as those of us that want to play on it.”

The Business Journal finds such comment as refreshing as a summer swim in the Big Lake. It should resonate with legislators.

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