House infrastructure proposal supports SRF, WIFIA increases

A report released in January by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives outlines a number of policy recommendations for rebuilding and renewing U.S. infrastructure, including ideas to spur investment in water and wastewater systems.

The report was authored by members of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 48 lawmakers that exists to “analyze policies and find points of bipartisan consensus to address the enormous need for new infrastructure and the current backlog of deferred maintenance facing our country.” The report offers broad policy recommendations, plus more specific ideas for six infrastructure sectors, including water and wastewater systems.

The document, however, offers few new suggestions that have not previously been discussed, and it is unclear how much influence the report will have when congressional leaders begin to piece together their own infrastructure plan.

For the water sector, the lawmakers recommend several ideas that have been promoted by industry associations, such as increasing spending on the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs), boosting funding for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program to its fully-authorized level of $45 million in FY18, promoting the development of regional water systems and reviewing duplicative state regulations that increase paperwork for utilities seeking SRF loans.  Other water and wastewater policy recommendations in the document include increasing research to combat harmful algal blooms, expanding WIFIA’s aid to small and rural communities and creating a federal water research agency “to directly support high-risk, high-rewards technology development.”

RELATED: Water sector groups support bill to extend WIFIA

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the organization representing public wastewater and stormwater agencies of all sizes nationwide in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy, praised Congress’ Problem Solvers Caucus on the bipartisan infrastructure proposal.

“The National Association of Clean Water Agencies commends the House Problem Solvers Caucus Infrastructure Working Group for their bipartisan proposal to improve our nation’s infrastructure,” said NACWA CEO Adam Krantz in a statement. “We thank co-chairs Congressman John Katko and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty for leading this effort, and offering us an opportunity over the past few months to discuss NACWA’s priorities, many of which have been included in the plan.

“NACWA supports the plan’s solutions for our country’s water and wastewater infrastructure including increased support for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF), a 50-state review by GAO of state CWSRF requirements and an examination of the affordability strain on ratepayers along with other key aspects.

“Now is the time to act and we praise the House Problem Solvers Caucus for the leadership they’ve shown in putting forth a bi-partisan proposal for addressing these critical issues. NACWA and its members—which include 1,100+ publicly-owned treatment facilities and clean water utilities–stand ready to work with Congress and the Administration and urge the prioritization of water as a central piece of the infrastructure package.”

In a statement, members of the caucus said the report is intended to identify a “set of policies to serve as the bedrock for a plan that addresses the dire need to rebuild and responsibly invest in infrastructure across the United States.”

The report comes as the Trump Administration is reportedly planning to release its own infrastructure plan and as talk of a comprehensive infrastructure bill is increasing on Capitol Hill. But at this point, it is impossible to say which, if any, of the ideas in the report may make their way into any subsequent infrastructure package.

Some information contained in this news first appeared in the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies’ (AMWA) Monday Morning Briefing.

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