By Dave Sorem, P.E. ECA Government Affairs Chairman email: [email protected]
While ECA concentrates its political efforts and campaign contributions for local issues, we do participate on the national level through our membership in the Clean Water Construction Coalition (CWCC).
The news coming out of CWCC is regarding federal funding for water infrastructure projects is what we have been hoping for so we can report that we are cautiously optimistic that we will
see improved federal support. We must also report that our optimism is tempered by the realization that infrastructure funding is only one of many areas of concern for the new team in D.C.
For example, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced last month that he, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Elect Trump’s transition team were developing plans to move a number of major pieces of legislation during the first 200 days of Congress—which means September in Congress-speak.
Six major legislative initiatives have been identified for passage by the Republican controlled Congress by the August 2017 recess. The areas of legislative focus include the repeal/replacement
of the Affordable Care Act, regulatory reform, tax code overhaul, rebuilding the military, securing America’s borders and, finally, major investment in infrastructure.
Originally Congressional leaders were not interested in addressing the nation’s infrastructure, however, after chatting with President Trump, the legislators now appear willing to at least discuss leveraging private-sector investments to boost infrastructure funding.
What to expect for 2017
Meanwhile, the 114th Congress came to an end in December, but not before passing a new water bill which was signed by President Barack Obama December 16th. This measure, the “Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act” (WIIN) of 2016, was released by the Conference Committee as strictly a traditional Corps of Engineers funding bill.
The final enacted version of the bill contains the following good news for our industry:
- $335M for storage, $150M for recycled water, and $30M for desalination construction projects for western states – including California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas;
- Approximately $1B for lead and other contaminant construction projects for Michigan specifically and other jurisdictions generally;
- New Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) eligibility for drought projects and projects to provide alternative water supplies. Also, includes modifications of WIFIA terms and conditions: allows financing fees to be financed as part of the loans; and, allows in-kind contributions and costs incurred prior to receiving a loan to be credited to the non-Federal share.
Bottom line—it all means more money for local projects, which is why we participate in CWCC in the first place.