The $1.01 trillion spending bill approved by Congress this weekend includes funding to set up the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program and numerous other water-related programs. It also rejects hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to the EPA’s State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs proposed by President Obama earlier this year.
The WIFIA pilot program was authorized in June as part of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA). (See our May 28, June 4 and June 11 posts for details on WRRDA). WIFIA was enacted to provide up to $200 million in low-interest federal loans and guarantees for large water infrastructure projects without interfering with already existing project financing through the SRF.
While the WIFIA portion of the omnibus spending bill does not include funding for specific projects, it does provide the full $2.2 million Congress authorized earlier this year for the EPA to set up the WIFIA program.
CWC staff is encouraged to see that Congress has authorized the funding to get the WIFIA program set up, and will continue to push Congress to appropriate funding for the actual project loans.
On SRFs, the bill includes $906.9 million and $1.449 billion, respectively, for the Drinking Water and Clean Water SRFs, each equal to their FY14 funding levels. President Obama had proposed cutting the two programs by a combined $581 million. CWC is enormously gratified by Congressional action to maintain level funding for these critically needed programs.
Other water-related provisions in the spending bill include:
. Funding for the Public Water System Supervision grant program (grants to help states administer the Safe Drinking Water Act) at last year’s level of $101.9 million;
. $19 million for technical assistance grants for rural water and wastewater systems under the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act;
. $300 million (consistent with last year’s authorization level) for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program to protect and restore the waters of the Great Lakes;
. $5.5 billion in funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, an increase of $15 million over last year;
. $2.3 billion for navigation projects and studies;
. $1.1 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, for harbor maintenance, construction and operations activities;
. $281 million for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, to support the construction and rehabilitation of the nation’s inland waterways infrastructure; and
. $1.6 billion for public health and flood and storm damage reduction activities.
CWC wishes all of you, our loyal members and subscribers, a happy and healthy holiday season. We will be in touch again when our blog resumes on January 7!