Tlaib, activists demand more federal infrastructure spending in wake of flooding

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Environmental groups joined U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, on Wednesday in calling for major federal spending on infrastructure due to recent flooding that they blame on climate change.

The Zoom news conference featured groups like the Michigan Alliance for Justice in Climate, the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition and the Sierra Club. Their representatives said pressure needs to be put on Congress to invest in infrastructure changes to help stem major flooding that has affected southeastern Michigan in recent days.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, has called for more federal spending on infrastructure to deal with recent flooding and other moves.

Tlaib said the communities affected need leaders and environmental groups "to be bold and strong when it comes to our climate crisis." She called on more spending.

"We felt completely helpless when we saw not only the freeways, but just people struggling to get their homes cleaned out, struggling to get their cars out of the water," Tlaib said. "People are really scared about what happens now if it rains. There's just a tremendous amount of anxiety."

The floods, she said, "are from extreme weather" that comes "from the climate crisis."

"Folks don't want to recognize that, but when I saw Ecorse Creek in Dearborn Heights, which impacts a lot of communities, get up close to 9 feet. ... Homes were just completely underwater and families felt completely helpless," Tlaib said.

Kenneth Jackson of Sunrise Detroit said climate change may seem like it's "something far away, that you'll never be that lonely polar bear drifting on a melting ice cap, but we're already experiencing it at catastrophic levels."

The winter storm in Texas, wildfires in California and the storms in Michigan that brought several inches of rain are perfect examples, Jackson said.

"As we know the planet is warming due to the manufacturing of fossil fuels and technology we depend on to maintain our way of life which produces greenhouse gases," he said, calling on more funding for public transportation and wind turbines to create jobs.

Christy McGillivray of the Sierra Club said extreme water events will bring more flooding to the country and "we have to prepare for both drought and flooding."

McGillivray said Congress needs to act given that all these events threaten lives. 

And poorer communities that inherited infrastructure problems are the ones that will be hit the hardest, she said. "We have to invest in our wastewater infrastructure across the entire state," McGillivray said, "especially in neighborhoods that continuously face a risk of flooding during extreme weather events."

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