What Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder said – and didn’t say – about the environment and the Great Lakes in his 2017 State of the State address

What Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder said – and didn’t say – about the environment and the Great Lakes in his 2017 State of the State address
January 19, 2017 Mary Ellen Geist
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder delivering 2014 Michigan State of the State Address

He didn’t say much about the health of the Great Lakes. And he didn’t address the Flint water crisis until he was about 34 minutes into his speech.

But in Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State Address on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, he did say the following: “We are at risk in every corner of Michigan for aging infrastructure and we cannot take this for granted.”

He said Flint’s pipes and the Fraser sinkhole are proof it’s time for Michigan to invest “billions of dollars to update transportation, water and communication systems across the state.” However, he did not propose specific ways to fund those improvements. He says he wants to boost Michigan’s population to 10 million people by 2020, which would mean bringing 71,000 people to the state.

Governor Snyder, who is Chair of the Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors, suggested creating a special committee to look at issues of environmental justice.

Members of the Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers

Photo courtesy of P. S. Burton via Wikimedia

He also says he wants to start a crowdsourcing challenge to come up with ideas on how to deal with the problem of the potential Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes. And he says he will develop public-private partnerships to use state land as a mitigation bank that will protect wetlands.

In addition, Governor Snyder called for federal funding of the reconstruction of the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie.

He says a recent study shows the reconstruction could be an economic boom for the state of Michigan.

The second-term governor spent most of last year’s state of the state address confronting the Flint water crisis. This year, he spent approximately two minutes talking about the city where residents are still unable to drink tap water without a filter.

Downtown skyline from the Flint River

Photo courtesy of Connor Coyne via Wikimedia

The drinking water became contaminated with lead in April of 2014 and created a state of emergency. He called it a “sad chapter in the history of our state.” He said Flint’s lead-tainted water is “unacceptable”. He vowed to “fix it”, and pointed out the state has already invested $234 million dollars in fixing Flint’s water problems, including $27 million for underground pipes and other health initiatives. He said, “We’re making progress, but our work is not done yet.”

Governor Snyder said more and more visitors are coming to Michigan from all over the world. “Tourism, thanks to Pure Michigan we are showing America just how beautiful we think our home state is. I am a huge fan of kayaking, rock hunting, I even tried elk bugling. One of my favorite experiences was biking the brewery and wine trail in the Thumb. It was absolutely beautiful. We have so many awesome things to do in our state and we should be proud. One of the great things was what Lonely Planet did for us. They named the U.P. one of the top 10 value destinations for 2017 and it was in a category –  the only place in the United States – along with Venice, Morocco, Belize and Nepal. The U.P. is right up there with the best in the world.”

He pointed out another kudo for the state, too: “Just recently the New York Times says Detroit is ninth on the list of places to go in 2017, beating out places like Athens, Madrid and even the Great Barrier Reef. It’s incredible.”

Governor Snyder said, “One of the big accomplishments this last year was energy legislation. Some of us even pulled an all-nighter on that one, but it was worth it because it’s going to achieve three outcomes. It’s going to help protect our environment, it’s going to help us meet our energy needs and it’s going to save Michiganders money. “

To see video and view the full transcript of Governor Snyder’s 2017 State of the State Address, go to michigan.gov


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