Yesterday, January 10,2016, the EPA launched the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. The program was initially included as a part of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act that passed Congress in 2014, and has been being stood up by EPA over the past two years. The Continuing Resolution that Congress passed in December included the appropriations to capitalize the program with $20 million that the EPA says will provide up to $2 billion in infrastructure investment. This is a new financing source that the Clean Water Council fully supports and advocated for in 2014.
There are some, including the Clean Water Council, who are concerned that WIFIA will undercut the successful and popular State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs. The SRFs are the largest line item in EPA’s budget and has been the target of appropriations cuts since 2010. The SRF programs are intended to focus on infrastructure upgrades in low-income communities by providing low interest loans and grants.
WIFIA, which was modeled after TIFIA, the popular transportation infrastructure project program, will provide low-cost, long term project financing for water infrastructure projects. To be eligible for WIFIA financing assistance projects must be larger than $20 million ($5 million if serving a community of less than 25,000 people) and come up with 51% of the projects cost from other sources.
The Clean Water Council is pleased to see WIFIA come to fruition. We understand that Congress has expressed its intention for SRF and WIFIA programs to supplement each other and we hope Congress maintains that position, as our country remains in critical need of water infrastructure investment and upgrades.