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Senators Propose $19.5B Water Infrastructure Bill

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

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Last week, two lawmakers on the Senate Environmental and Public Works (EPW) Committee released two pieces of draft legislation that would authorize the investment of $19.5 billion in the nation’s water infrastructure.

The proposed legislation includes America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020) and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020.

About the Legislation

Drafted by Environmental and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, and Senator Tom Carper, D-Delaware, the legislative pair aims to provide the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with funding for flood protection, ecological restoration and increased water storage.

“The draft legislation will help ensure American-made goods are safely shipped from one state to another and that the water Americans are drinking is safe,” said Barrasso.

tuachanwatthana / Getty Images

Last week, two lawmakers on the Senate Environmental and Public Works (EPW) Committee released two pieces of draft legislation that would authorize the investment of $19.5 billion in the nation’s water infrastructure.

The draft legislation also aims to aid Environmental Protection Agency with wastewater treatments, better drinking water and will more than double the last approved water package.

According to The Hill, the legislation arrives as President Donald J. Trump called on Congress to pass infrastructure legislation once the COVID-19 health crisis has passed. Barrasso notes that the water infrastructure proposal, along with other previously approved legislation, will answer that call.

Built on the committee’s bipartisan 2018 water infrastructure legislation, Carper adds that the new legislation will “improve projects’ resiliency to extreme weather events, increase the transparency and accountability of federally-funded projects and ensure that every community can benefit from federal funding and support—especially the smaller, rural and vulnerable communities that have been disregarded for far too long.”

To break each drafted bill down individually, the AWIA 2020 legislation plans to authorize $17 billion for infrastructure projects and sets a two-year goal for the Corps to complete various feasibility studies for potential projects.

Specifically, $4.3 billion in federal funds will be used for 20 Corps projects. Most notably, projects receiving the funds include a $909 million flood protection program in Norfolk, Virginia and a $794 million federal share for a $983.7 million flood protection plan for multiple areas along the Atlantic shore of Long Island, New York.

Additionally, the AWIA 2020 offers conditional funding amounting to $7.5 billion, which would be used over three years for the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) and $2.5 billion for drinking water SRFs. However, because the funding is conditional, budgetary scoring could require offsetting revenue increases.

The draft of the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act would use the remaining $2.5 billion to reauthorize the Safe Drinking Water Act emergency fund and would authorize $300 million in grants to help with cancer-linked chemical contaminations.

Recent Water Infrastructure Announcements

At the end of February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that aims to help water systems face the challenges of aging infrastructure, workforce shortages, increasing costs, limited management capacity and declining rate bases.

According to EPA’s news release, the decision supports its 50th anniversary and February theme of protecting the nation’s waters, which includes surface water protection, safe drinking water and water infrastructure investments.

To achieve the implementation of innovative strategies and tools, the agreement focuses on four main areas:

  • Provide training and education resources, among others, to incorporate strategies into rural utility management;
  • Support of water system partnerships through community education and utility information on the array of tools available to support partnerships that can increase sustainability;
  • Support of the water sector workforce, in part by continuing to raise awareness of rural water sector careers through promotional initiatives; and
  • Support compliances with drinking water and clean water regulations, which includes making rural systems a funding priority.

Prior to the MOA, in October 2019, House Rep. Harley Rouda, D-California, and Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, introduced H.R. 4687, the Sustainable Municipal Access to Resilient Technology in Infrastructure Act. The bipartisan legislation aims to lower expenses, as well as increase the longevity of federally funded water-based infrastructure projects.

"The SMART Infrastructure Act is capitalism at work—encouraging open competition and removing burdensome regulations while saving American taxpayers billions of dollars,” said Rouda. “As the federal government continues to fund critical infrastructure projects and Members on both sides of the aisle seek to increase that investment across the country, we should encourage modern, resilient solutions that use taxpayer dollars responsibly.”

According to Transport Topics, several stakeholders including Associated Builders and Contractors, the Vinyl Institute, the Plastics Industry Association, the Leading Builders of America and the American Chemistry Council have already expressed support for the legislation.

   

Tagged categories: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Funding; Government; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; non-potable water; North America; potable water; Program/Project Management; Stormwater; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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