Miller, Levin focus on lake advocacy efforts

By: Julie Snyder | C&G Newspapers | Published April 12, 2019

MACOMB COUNTY — Two local politicians and advocates for the health of the Great Lakes are planning continued efforts to protect the “Heart of the Great Lakes” — Lake St. Clair.

Last week, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller received reappointment to serve as commissioner for the Great Lakes Commission, or GLC. At the same time, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, is leading a bipartisan effort to put federal dollars toward cleaning up Lake St. Clair.

State Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, reappointed Miller to the GLC April 3. Miller was initially appointed to the commission in 2017.

“Throughout her entire tenure of public service, from local office to the U.S. Congress and back, advocacy for the Great Lakes has been a constant for Commissioner Miller,” Chatfield said in a prepared statement. “I share her passion and am pleased that she has agreed to continue to serve as a voice for Michigan and the lakes on the GLC.”

The Great Lakes Commission is an organization of the eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces that border the lakes. The commission works to address issues of common concern, develop shared solutions, and collectively advance an agenda to protect and enhance the region’s economic prosperity and environmental health.

“In Macomb County, we are taking concrete steps today to better protect Lake St. Clair,” Miller said in a statement. “I will continue to work to encourage other communities to do their part as well.”

Miller was elected as Macomb County public works commissioner in 2016. Previously, she spent 14 years as a member of Congress and served as the Michigan secretary of state for eight years. She began her public service career as a trustee and supervisor of Harrison Township, which borders the shores of Lake St. Clair just north of St. Clair Shores, where Levin and other House members are pushing for funding assistance.

In a letter sent to the House Appropriations Committee, Michigan members of the U.S. House of Representatives requested federal funding to improve the Chapaton Retention Basin, located at Nine Mile Road and Jefferson Avenue.

“To make urgent water quality improvements to Lake St. Clair, we need investment from both the state and federal governments,” Levin said. “Current problems including stormwater contamination are linked to overflows that would be prevented if necessary improvements to the Chapaton Retention Basin were made.”

Levin said he is looking forward to working with Miller in the fight to obtain the critical funding. The two toured the basin and pump station together last month.

The Chapaton Retention Basin is a 28-million-gallon combined sewer overflow facility that opened in 1968 and currently services Interstate 94, businesses, and approximately 92,000 residents in Eastpointe and St. Clair Shores. The basin also serves a vital function in protecting the environment by retaining up to 30 million gallons of stormwater and sanitary sewage flow during heavy rains — approximately seven times per year, on average, according to Miller’s office — and then re-diverting to sewage treatment.

Levin’s letter was signed by Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland; Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township; Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph; Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly; Paul Mitchell, R-Thomas Township; Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills; Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn; and Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit.

Specifically, the letter requests that the committee include funding for the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants authorized in Section 4106 of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, and the Water Investment Finance and Innovation Act. Levin said these funds could be used to address the water quality problems in Lake St. Clair by making improvements to the Chapaton Retention Basin, as well as benefit other critically important water infrastructure projects across Michigan.

“Lake St. Clair and the Great Lakes Basin is a national treasure, so it makes sense that our federal government would play a role in this project to protect the lakes,” Miller said. “We are committed to improving our operations at the Chapaton Retention Basin, and then we will be turning our sights on other sources of combined sewer overflows that need to be brought into the 21st century.”

The announcements were made just days before the Macomb Interceptor Drainage District, or MIDD, board approved a 2.5 percent increase to sewer rates in 11 Macomb County communities. Miller is a member of that board.

The increase is an average that will be passed on to the 11 MIDD municipal sewer customers beginning July 1. They are Harrison Township, 5.8 percent; Clinton Township, 3.6 percent; Chesterfield Township, 4.1 percent; Fraser, 1.4 percent; Lenox Township, 4.7 percent; New Haven, 1.4 percent; Shelby Township, 2.8 percent; Sterling Heights, 2.2 percent; Washington Township, 1.7 percent; Macomb Township will see no increase; and Utica will see a 0.7 percent decrease.