Coastal-Zone Reauthorization

The Coastal-Zone Reauthorization Act (CZARA) and the Clean Water Act could also have major impacts on state roadbuilding costs. Under CZARA, all of Michigan, except for one small strip down the center of the state, is considered a coastal zone. As a result, MDOT projects cannot increase the amount of suspended contaminants in runoff from completed highways. This requires a demonstration of before and after contaminated runoff levels, or if this is not possible, the construction of treatment facilities that remove 80% of the pollutants.

It is estimated that the Coastal Zone Act will cost Michigan $90 million in fiscal 1996, with costs after that going up and down depending on the nature of projects.50 The Clean Water Act's Phase I requirements have already forced the state to apply for storm water discharge permits for highway runoff but compliance costs are not known because the permits and related regulations have not been issued. Phase II of this Act will require Michigan to spend some $10 million just to apply for additional permits, let alone comply with their requirements.

Even though it will be difficult to get changes to all of these requirements, MDOT must be aggressive about pointing out the costs to the public and the Governor. In extreme cases the Governor should order MDOT not to comply and should sue the federal government to stop enforcement, or seek changes in the laws and regulations in Washington. As part of the overall education effort MDOT should also be required by state legislation to report to the Legislature and the public annually on estimated annual compliance costs for each major piece of environmental legislation. This legislation should also be a condition for any possible gas tax increase.