Legislative Report: Sen Jon Bumstead

Legislative Report
Jon Bumstead
Michigan State Senator
Director, Muskegon River Watershed Assembly

Dear Friends,

Fall is often a busy time in the Michigan Legislature, and this is especially true in 2020. No one could have anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic and the negative economic impact that would come with it.

Fortunately, the impact on Michigan’s budget was largely eased. Michigan received $3.1 billion in federal funding for coronavirus relief efforts, and investments in the state’s Rainy-Day Fund over the past decade were utilized to ease the budget deficit.

The state legislature recently finalized the budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 and there is good news for environmental non-profit organizations like the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly (MRWA). $600,000 was included in the budget for the creation of a new watershed grant program. The one-time funding is intended for the creation of a pilot program for education, administration and conservation functions at watershed councils. This is a great opportunity for watershed councils throughout our state to receive additional operational resources.

Dam safety in Michigan continues to be an important topic, and the new budget includes a renewed commitment to Michigan’s Dam Safety Program. This program seeks to ensure that dams are properly constructed, maintained, and inspected, and that owners are prepared in the event of an emergency. The finalized budget includes on-going funding of $350,000 to double the staffing in this program.

In response to the Edenville Dam failure, the Michigan Dam Safety Task Force was recently formed to   provide recommendations to the governor and Michigan Legislature on policy, budget, legislative and enforcement reforms to prevent future dam failures across the state.

MRWA executive director Dr. Marty Holtgren who will serve as a member of the task force is very pleased to play a role: “I am definitely honored to be included in this outstanding team of experts and look forward to the hard work ahead to protect Michigan citizens from the effects of dam failure”

Task force members who were selected based on a wide range of experience and backgrounds comprise a highly capable team:

  • Paul Ajegba, Director, Department of Transportation
  • Melinda Bacon (Myndi), Senior Consultant, SME
  • John Broschak, VP Generation Operations and Compression, Consumers Energy
  • Bryan Burroughs, Executive Director, Trout Unlimited
  • Liesl Eichler Clark, Director, Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy
  • Dan Eichinger, Director, Department of Natural Resources
  • Brett Fessell, River Restoration Ecologist, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
  • Marty Holtgren, Executive Director, Muskegon River Watershed Assembly
  • Dana Infante, Assistant Director of AgBioResearch, Michigan State University
  • Douglas Jester, Partner, 5 Lakes Energy
  • Jim Kochevar, General Manager of Michigan Operations, Cleveland Cliffs
  • Paul Malocha, Member, Association of Dam Safety Officials, Stantec
  • Tanya Paslawski , President, Michigan Electric and Gas Association
  • Evan Pratt, Water Resources Commissioner, Washtenaw County
  • Bill Rustem, Advisor to former Michigan governors William Milliken and Rick Snyder
  • Dan Scripps, Chair, Michigan Public Service Commission
  • Stan Vitton, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan Technological University
  • Abby Watkins, Director of Emergency Services, Newaygo County
  • Glen Wiczorek, Senior Utilities Engineer, City of Ann Arbor

The Michigan Dam Safety Task Force will evaluate the statutory structure, budget, and program design of the Water Resources Division Dam Safety Program, the adequacy of Michigan’s dam safety standards, and the level of investment needed in Michigan’s dam infrastructure.

The task force has scheduled meetings to be held virtually on the following dates:

  • October 21, 2020 10:00 a.m. – Virtual
  • November 10, 2020 10:00 a.m. – Virtual
  • November 30, 2020 1:00 p.m. – Virtual
  • December 17, 2020 (tentative) 3:00 p.m. – Virtual
  • January 13, 2021 (tentative) 10:00 a.m. – Virtual
  • February 3, 2021 (tentative) 2:00 p.m. – Virtual

Additional information regarding the Michigan Dam Safety Task Force, including agendas, meeting notices, video recordings and presentations will be made available to the public by visiting www.Michigan.gov/midamsafetytaskforce.

Members of the public will have an opportunity to add their name to the public comment roster during each meeting. As members of MRWA, I encourage each of you to attend as many meetings as possible, so we can advocate for regulatory improvements to ensure Michigan dams protect both our residents and our aquatic resources.