WASHINGTON—An innovative approach to modernizing critical water infrastructure—especially in rural areas often unable to afford upgrades to aging water systems—is one step closer to reality as a result of a new policy initiative authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR).
The new approach—based off the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act introduced by Boozman earlier this year—was included as a provision in the final version of a comprehensive bill that reauthorizes funding for the nation’s water infrastructure programs. That bill, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, has been approved by both chambers of Congress and is expected to be signed into law.
Boozman’s provision combines the best aspects of State Revolving Funds (SRFs) with the leveraging power of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to make the process easier and more affordable for states to meet their underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs. It increases access to previously unavailable funding sources for small and medium-size communities, while removing high application fees which often prevent access to funds for rural communities.
“This is an innovative solution to updating our water and wastewater infrastructure in a way that communities of all sizes can afford. I appreciate that my colleagues who finalized this comprehensive bill saw it fit to include the language I authored to help state and local governments overcome the barriers that have stalled water infrastructure improvements for far too long. Fixing our crumbling infrastructure is a national priority and my provision creates another option for any community, including those in rural America, to address overdue water infrastructure upgrades,” Boozman said.
The policy changes put forward by Boozman will provide a direct and politically viable path to providing dramatic increases in funding for our nation’s SRF programs that will help address the backlog of long-awaited local infrastructure projects. It will allow thousands of vetted water and wastewater projects to receive funding without the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) having to process thousands of additional applications.
In a speech on Tuesday, Boozman called this provision “a critical component to future water infrastructure financing.”
Boozman’s efforts have garnered praise from Arkansas and national water infrastructure advocates.
Dennis Sternberg, Executive Director of Arkansas Rural Water Association, applauded the policy update to extend these authorities to states.
“We are very pleased a version of Senator Boozman’s bill was included in the package. Small and rural communities have more difficulty affording public wastewater service due to lack of population density and lack of economies of scale. Rural America is very appreciative for the help,” Sternberg said.
President of the American Society of Civil Engineers Kristina Swallow, P.E., said the benefits of this approach will be felt nationwide.
“The SRF WIN provision secures a significant increase in investment for water infrastructure, which is sorely needed given our nation’s ‘D’ grade for drinking water and ‘D+’ grade for wastewater in the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. Sen. Boozman’s leadership and vision led to this new funding option that will improve our nation’s water infrastructure,” Swallow said.
Original article source: https://www.boozman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2018/10/boozman-s-water-infrastructure-investment-legislation-included-in-comprehensive-bill-on-way-to-president-for-signature | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council