NACWA Urges House to OK Infrastructure Package

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) submitted written testimony to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for the Oct. 29 hearing, "Investing in Infrastructure: The Road to Recovery."

In its testimony, NACWA strongly encouraged Congress to pass an economic stimulus package that includes funding for wastewater infrastructure projects. NACWA emphasized that these projects are important to protect public health and the environment and also to provide jobs and a much-needed boost to the municipal, state, and national economies.

The association's testimony details the struggles municipalities across the nation face in meeting the $300-$500 billion funding gap. Before the current crisis began, "municipalities were paying more than $60 billion per year to upgrade their clean and safe water infrastructure systems, while the federal government has reduced its contribution to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to $650 million, the lowest level since passage of the Clean Water Act. Municipalities have, meanwhile, been raising their wastewater treatment service charges at double the rate of inflation and will continue to do their part to address the funding gap at the local level via rate increases. At the same time, the cost of labor, material, and expertise have risen to the point where significantly less work can be accomplished with each project dollar. Add to this picture the current financial crisis and you have a perfect storm at the municipal level and an urgent need for federal action."

NACWA noted that an increase in funding would provide approximately 47,000 jobs for each $1 billion invested in infrastructure projects and added that "the recommended $10 billion investment in wastewater infrastructure would create over 400,000 solid, much-needed new jobs."

The association also sent a letter Oct. 15 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid detailing the need for increased federal assistance and providing a list of NACWA public agency projects that are ready to go. The approximately $3 billion in projects is a small percentage of all of those around the country, which NACWA estimates at more than $10 billion. Similar ready-to-go lists by groups such as Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators, the Environmental Council of States, and the Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities have bolstered this estimate.

NACWA commended the House for its recently passed stimulus package legislation, H.R. 7110, in providing $6.5 billion in funding for these projects. However it recommends expanding this figure to $10 billion with a more significant grants or negative-interest loan component that will make the funds more attractive to communities that have been hit hard by the economic downturn.

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