$565 M to Boost Infrastructure in Ark., La., N.M., Okla., and Texas

State and tribal governments in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 will receive more than $565 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for water projects that will create jobs in addition to protecting public health and the environment, according to a March 17 press release.

EPA Region 6 is headquartered in Dallas and includes the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 65 federally recognized tribes. This is the first installment of EPA funding available to support states and tribes in Region 6 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which President Obama signed into law on Feb. 17.

The individual amounts directed to state and tribal governments will be delivered via existing programs: the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, and the Tribal Clean Water and Drinking Water Set-Aside programs. Arkansas will receive $50.4 million, Louisiana will receive $71.1 million, New Mexico will receive $38.9 million, Oklahoma will receive $63.4 million, and Texas will receive $341.6 million. In addition, EPA Region 6 will provide approximately $7 million for tribal water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

These funds will supplement existing annual EPA SRF grants to the states. The states use these funds to issue loans for enhancing, upgrading and rebuilding public drinking water systems and public wastewater systems, as well as funding non-point source projects. The new law provides states with additional flexibility in loan terms by requiring that at least 50 percent of the funding be provided in subsidies such as principal forgiveness or negative interest rates. States and watershed planning organizations will also benefit from the new law through the provision of small planning grants to address specific water quality problems. At least 20 percent of the Recovery Act water funds EPA grants to states should be used for green infrastructure, water or energy efficiency improvements, or other environmentally innovative projects.

The states and federal agencies are working to identify the best projects for Recovery Act funding. Opportunities for public comments on each state’s proposed list of projects will occur in the next several weeks. As soon as the process is complete and applications are received, EPA will provide the funding. EPA officials expect the funding to flow to the states beginning in April.

Funding for Tribal drinking water and wastewater infrastructure occurs in a partnership between EPA, Tribes and the Indian Health Service (IHS). EPA’s funding will transfer to IHS, who manages the water-related infrastructure construction for Tribes. IHS expects to be able to begin using the funding in April.