The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has passed a version of the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) authorization bill, the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (H.R. 8). The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is scheduled to mark up the bill tomorrow.
From the letter to the House advocating for WRDA, sent by NACo, National Governors Association, National League of Cities, United States Conference of Mayors, and National Conference of State Legislatures:
WRDA is critical in helping to protect, maintain and further develop our water infrastructure systems including, ports, waterways, and clean and safe drinking water. It provides states and local governments with added stability and certainty to meet water infrastructure needs while also supporting the safety, environmental protection and economic development of our communities. Following a seven – year gap in the passage of WRDA, Congress was able to enact both the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) and the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016 (WIIN) on a bipartisan basis. We strongly urge Congress to stay this course and approve bipartisan WRDA legislation in 2018, and continue to authorize WRDA every two years moving forward.
The Senate version of the bill includes extensions to the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which provides low-interest loans to local governments and utilities to repair existing water and wastewater infrastructure. Route Fifty reports:
The version of the bill the Senate committee approved includes language that would effectively extend WIFIA lending terms to another set of waterworks programs known as the drinking water and clean water state revolving funds.
With the revolving funds, EPA awards “capitalization grants” to states. States contribute a 20 percent match, and then use the money to provide low-cost loans and other financing assistance for drinking water and wastewater projects. The funds are one of the primary ways the federal government provides support for local water infrastructure across the U.S.
The extension to WIFIA was originally proposed in the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now Act.
The National Rural Water Association supports the expansion, which it says will make it easier for rural communities to access the funds. The American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, and the Water Environment Federation oppose the move, however. They argue:
…it would undermine the purpose and ability of WIFIA to effectively leverage limited federal dollars to support major water and wastewater infrastructure investments.