Program could spur $1.2 billion in water infrastructure loans
U.S. House of Representatives and Senate negotiators on Tuesday agreed to provide $20 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act in 2017, paving the way for up to $1.2 billion in loans to support critical water infrastructure projects if approved by Congress. The House is expected to vote on the Continuing Resolution on Thursday and the Senate should take it up Friday.
The American Water Works Association, a leading proponent of WIFIA, celebrated the agreement as a pivotal moment in the nation’s efforts to renew millions of miles of aging water pipes and other water infrastructure.
“The agreement to fund WIFIA is a tremendous step forward for our nation’s critical water infrastructure,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance. “Every dollar appropriated for WIFIA can fund between 50 and 60 times that amount in loans, so a $20 million federal outlay can spur up to $1.2 billion in project loans. That’s an important step forward in confronting the water infrastructure challenge.”
A 2012 AWWA report estimated that more than $1 trillion would be needed over 25 years to repair and expanding drinking water infrastructure, and wastewater needs are thought to be similar.
The WIFIA funding was included as part of a Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded in 2017. Both the House and Senate must approve the CR before the money becomes available. WIFIA is actually authorized to receive $35 million in 2017 under the law creating the program in 2014. The Water Infrastructure Improvement Acts for the Nation (WIIN), which was previously known as the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2016 (WRDA), contains a “sense of Congress” that WIFIA be funded at the $20 million level. This appears to be part of the overall negotiations for moving WIIN/WRDA and the CR this week.
“We were hoping WIFIA would receive the fully authorized amount of $35 million,” said LaFrance said. “But this is a short-term spending bill, and it is a positive step. Still, there is more work to do, and AWWA will keep working for additional funding to address the country’s water infrastructure needs.”
The House is expected to pass WIIN this week and the Senate either this week or the next. However, since WIFIA funding is included in the CR and is already authorized, the program can move forward even without WIIN’s passage.
“Because WIFIA is a loan program, it strikes just the right balance between federal assistance and local responsibility,” LaFrance said.
Retrieved from Water Online