At a briefing on June 26, Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, the Army’s Chief of Engineers and the Army Corps commanding general, noted that the Corps is beginning to explore the use of public-private partnerships to repair the nation’s aging water infrastructure.
“The federal government can’t do this on [its] own,” Bostick said. “We have $1.5 billion to put into projects this year, and we’d need $23.5 billion to finish the projects we’re working on at the pace they are being appropriated,” he added. “There’s only so much that can be done through process efficiencies. Alternative financing will have to come from “outside the federal government,” he said. “We are going to have to ask the American public and our businesses to work together in public-private partnerships.”
Bostick noted the significance of water infrastructure in particular. “When everyone talks about infrastructure,” he said, “it’s only been recently that we’ve talked about water-related infrastructure…It was always roads and schools and bridges [and] runways and railroads. A lot of people don’t see the rivers. A lot of people don’t see the commerce that moves up and down the rivers.”
As Clean Water Weekly has noted before, provisions in the recently enacted Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) authorize the Army Corps to start exploring private investment options for Corps projects. Public-private partnerships (P3s) are already used by some state agencies to meet funding gaps on big infrastructure projects, particularly highways and bridges.
Bostick said he has been meeting with business leaders to discuss how the Corps might best make use of P3s. “When it comes to public-private partnerships, I believe we are all in the infancy of…what is possible. I’ve had multiple sessions with CEOs across the country to talk about this issue.” Clean Water Weekly will keep our subscribers updated on the outcome of these Corps-private sector sessions exploring the use of P3s in water infrastructure projects.