Water sector advises caution on SRF WIN bill

Last week, leading water industry organizations – the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) wrote to Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) to express concerns about a draft bill that could threaten the future of EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program.

The letter was in response to the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act, a draft of which Boozman has circulated in recent months. The draft proposal would add a new component to the existing WIFIA program that would authorize EPA to spend up to $1 billion over five years on new SRF WIN loans that would be available exclusively to states to pay for projects listed on their Drinking Water or Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) intended use plans.

But the bill also guarantees states applying for SRF WIN dollars more favorable loan terms than are available to communities seeking funding through the original WIFIA program and would introduce a new threat to the future of WIFIA by imposing a sunset on the program after the 2022 fiscal year.

RELATED: Florida lawmaker introduces bill to double WIFIA funding

WIFIA’s funding authorization is currently scheduled to expire in 2019, but the present statute carries no sunset clause that would force the program to cease operations in the absence of additional congressional action, as the SRF WIN provision would do.

The letter also suggested that the SRF WIN legislation is unnecessary because the existing WIFIA program already allows states to seek loans to fund multiple projects listed on their SRF intended use plans. For example, this year EPA invited this type of proposal from the state of Indiana to formally apply for a WIFIA loan.

Given these and other concerns, the letter stated that AMWA, AWWA and WEF “are unable to offer our support to the draft SRF WIN proposal,” but promised to continue to work with Boozman and others on water infrastructure financing efforts.

It is unclear when Boozman may formally introduce the SRF WIN proposal.

In November, a group of House members unveiled different legislation (H.R. 4492) to extend the existing WIFIA program for five years while dramatically increasing its funding authorization. Based on feedback from AMWA’s Legislative Committee, the association plans to support this bill and an expected Senate companion.

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