Omnibus package includes big boost for water infrastructure

In March, Congress approved an omnibus appropriations bill that includes big increases for U.S. EPA’s State Revolving Fund (SRF) and Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) programs. The bill rejects President Donald Trump’s call to cut funding to EPA by upwards of 30 percent.

The final omnibus spending legislation provides $1.163 billion for the Drinking Water SRF and just under $1.694 billion for the Clean Water SRF. This is an increase of $300 million for each program compared with FY17 and represents the highest annual SRF appropriations since the 2010 fiscal year. A “Buy American” mandate requiring the use of domestic iron and steel on SRF-funded projects will remain in place for 2018.

The WIFIA program also wins big in the appropriations bill. The program would receive a total of $63 million in FY18 – more than double its 2017 funding level. While $8 million of this sum is reserved for administrative expenses at EPA, lawmakers say the funding directed for loan subsidization could generate more than $6 billion worth of water infrastructure investment.

Speaking last week at the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies’ (AMWA) Water Policy Conference, EPA officials said the agency would be prepared to issue a Notice of Funding Availability for the next round of WIFIA loans soon after the FY18 spending bill was finalized.

The omnibus bill also rejects nearly all of the most severe programmatic cuts and eliminations the president had sought in last year’s budget request.

According to AMWA, the explanatory statement accompanying the Interior-EPA portion of the omnibus bill rejects the proposed elimination of the WaterSense program. Additionally, the statement notes that the omnibus bill “does not support reductions proposed in the budget request unless explicitly noted” by lawmakers – a provision that should shield EPA’s Water Security Division against elimination by the White House.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) also applauded Congress for the increases in clean water infrastructure investment that is included in the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) Omnibus spending package.

NACWA notes the increase of $600 million for the State Revolving Funds (SRFs) — split equally between the Drinking Water SRF and the Clean Water SRF — represents the most significant new money for these programs in many years. In addition, the proposed $63 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) is a significant increase in funding — exceeding the previously authorized FY18 levels.

The dramatically higher infrastructure funding levels for EPA are a direct result of a two-year budget framework agreed to by House and Senate leaders in February. The deal called for making available an additional $10 billion in each of the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years to fund a variety of infrastructure projects across the water, wastewater, transportation, energy and other sectors.

Sources: AMWA, NACWA

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