Loans, grants needed for infrastructure

If there’s water and sewer infrastructure, there are bound to be upgrades.

Since those typically don’t come without a price tag, it’s beneficial for municipalities to acquire funding.

So, the good news is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $7 million to Munising and Houghton to improve their water and sewer facilities.

Munising will receive a $4.65 million USDA loan to improve the city’s water system, while Houghton will receive $2.25 million in loans and $1.5 million in grants to improve its water and sewer systems.

The money is provided through the USDA’s Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. This year’s omnibus spending bill allows for investment in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.

Many people should be helped with this funding. For example, Munising’s water system serves over 1,000 customers. Since sections of the water main under busy M-28 are over a century old, that could be problematic.

Houghton plans to use its $3.75 million total allocation to upgrade its water and sewer systems, which serve over 1,200 residential customers and nearly 400 commercial customers.

Houghton, whose infrastructure in general has been tested with the recent June flooding that devastated the Copper Country, has a water system that, according to the USDA, has exceeded its useful life. It also has multiple leaks and recurring maintenance issues, and violates the Michigan Safe Drinking Act.

The sewer system has old structures and deteriorating pipes that lead to infiltration and inflow of groundwater as well as high maintenance costs.

The Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program helps qualified applicants by providing long-term, low-interest loans, which may be combined with grants to keep user costs reasonable.

USDA Rural Development operates this program to help small communities in need of financial help extend and improve their water and waste treatment facilities. In the long run, upgraded facilities save tax dollars, help businesses locate or expand operations, and improve the environment.

It’s gratifying to see smaller communities receive help for ever-important infrastructure. Bigger cities tend to have have deeper pockets, so the smaller ones really could use the help.

So, we say: Lend money to those who really need it.

Residents of small cities, towns and village deserve safe drinking water and well-functioning sewer systems.

Those are basic needs, and we’re glad to see Munising and Houghton will receive assistance in getting them.

— The Mining Journal