Waste water project to tie township to tribe

A major collaborative project was given its ceremonial start today in Manistee County.

A major collaborative project was given its ceremonial start today in Manistee County.

The goal of the project is to spur economic growth while protecting the environment.

Itâ??s a project more than two years in the making and one that will impact generations to come.

Heavy equipment is already moving dirt and pipes are lining US-31 in Manistee Township.

Eventually, those pipes will connect with a waste water treatment facility owned by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians a few miles away.

Itâ??s been a project that Ogema Larry Romanelli describes as a roller coaster.

â??We were walking on territory that we really didnâ??t understand between governments,â?? says Ogema Larry Romanelli of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. â??Even within a government you have these obstacles that can happen. So when you have four and five units of government working together, you are creating that blueprint as you go along. And now we can look back and say, â??OK. This is how you do it.â??â??

â??It had a history of bureaucratic delays,â?? says Jim Goodheart with Michiganâ??s Department of Environmental Quality. â??We sat down, came to a mutual understanding, protected tribal sovereignty, protected stateâ??s constitutional authority, and also integrated the local unit of government in a three-way partnership that we think is a very viable solution in meeting the interests of tribal and citizens of the state.â??

When completed, itâ??s hoped that the infrastructure will help lure more business to Manistee Township.

â??That is a very important point of progress, we believe, as the township,â?? says John Dontz, Trustee with Manistee Township. â??We hope to see development and growth here. The tribe has worked diligently with us for this. Weâ??ve worked about two-and-a-half years to bring it to a head.â??

â??Economic development is really the root of it because you have to provide the infrastructure,â?? says Ogema Romanelli. â??And thatâ??s why you do that. So youâ??re hoping that growth will happen, and we believe it will. Again, you see that the hospital is on board. You have Meijer right down the road thatâ??s new. And there are other things that are going to happen over the years.â??

The new lines will run from M-22 to M-55.

To start, only commercial properties will be required to connect to the new system.

Residential properties along US-31 will be required to tie-in as their systems fail.

Other municipalities have expressed interest in connecting with the tribeâ??s treatment facility, including Filer and Onekama Townships.