Lawmakers introduce bills to increase SRF dollars using WIFIA

U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-Ariz.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) recently introduced the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act to modernize investment in water infrastructure.

This legislation rejects the fix-as-fail approach currently used to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and instead empowers states to invest in multiple water infrastructure projects. The bill combines the best aspects of state revolving funds (SRFs) with the leveraging power of the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to make the process easier and more affordable for states to meet their underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs.

“We have a more than $500 billion shortfall for water infrastructure funding in this country. This is a national emergency. Access to safe and clean water is critical to the livelihood of every American. This legislation is an innovative approach to helping communities of all sizes, in every state secure loans so they can improve their crumbling infrastructure,” said Boozman, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works’ Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife.

This legislation would:

  • Authorize $200 million annually over five years to support state revolving fund projects exclusively.
  • Encourage states to bundle their projects by waiving the $100,000 application fee and streamlining the application process to a maximum 180-day turnaround.
  • Simplify the federal approval process by allowing thousands of vetted drinking water and wastewater projects to receive funding, eliminating the need for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to process thousands of additional loan applications.
  • Preserve the successful state revolving funds (SRFs) and the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program.

“This bipartisan legislation I’ve worked on with Senator Boozman will help provide desperately needed federal investment in water infrastructure in New Jersey and communities across the country,” said Booker. “By expanding the use of innovative practices and authorizing new funding, this bill will leverage tens of billions of dollars to make dramatic improvements to our country’s drinking water and wastewater systems.”

“Oklahoma communities are struggling to supply water to their growing populations, upgrade water infrastructure that is beyond its useful life, and keep up with the multitude of unfunded federal mandates they must comply with. These issues are not unique to Oklahoma and this legislation will give states greater flexibility to set priorities and get projects off the ground,” said Inhofe, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works’ Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

“We can no longer afford to put off repairs to our nation’s aging water infrastructure. California alone has a more than $7 billion backlog in needed improvements and repairs to our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Our bipartisan bill will provide low-cost loans to facilitate desperately needed investments to ensure access to safe, clean water,” Feinstein said.

This legislation has bicameral support. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen John Katko (R-NY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

In January, water sector groups also endorsed alternative legislation that would reauthorize WIFIA through 2024, but at this point it is uncertain whether this bill, or the new SRF WIN legislation, will gain momentum on Capitol Hill.

The American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) expressed their supports for H.R. 4492, the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Reauthorization Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.). The bill would reauthorize WIFIA for five years beyond its currently scheduled expiration in 2019, while doubling the program’s FY18 authorization from $45 million to $90 million and ramping up authorized funding levels to $140 million by 2024.

The bill would also give EPA new authority to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to consider applications for projects intended to address flood damage reduction; hurricane and storm impacts; and coastal, inland harbor or intercoastal waterway navigation improvements. The existing WIFIA statute makes these types of projects eligible for funding through a separate Army Corps-administered WIFIA program, but the Corps has taken no steps to make this program operational.

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