This month, two things are top of mind—how much money will end up in the federal infrastructure bill and how are we going to be able to deal with the critical need for more manpower to accomplish the tasks outlined in the spending plans. 

As to the first question, we are relying on reports from our Washington representation, the Clean Water Construction Coalition (CWCC) and their chief legislative advocate, Sante Espositio, with Key Advocates. Here’s his take on water funding:

Infrastructure Bills

On August 10, the Senate passed its bipartisan core infrastructure bill – with all Democrats and 19 Republicans supporting – totalling $550B in new spending for Fiscal Years (FY) 2022- 26. The bill is both an authorization and an appropriation bill. That means that it will make “real” money available (not just authorize it). 

Of interest (for utility contractors) the bill appropriates for FY 22-26 $12.838B for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), starting at $2.127 billion in FY22 and going up to $2.828B in FY26, and $35.713B over five years for the Safe Drinking Water SRF, starting at $6.702B in FY22 and going up to $7.403B in FY26. 

No appropriations are included for the Alternative Water Source Projects program (an authorization of $125M over 5 fiscal years is). 

For the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages water and power in the West (USBR), the bill appropriates $8.3B for FY22- 26 with an annual cap of $1.66B per year. Either the Interior Appropriations bill will make that decision or the USBR.

For water recycling, the bill appropriates $1B over five fiscal years, broken down to $550M for Title XVI and WIIN Act grants and $450M for “large scale” projects (projects costing more than $500M). The bill also includes $400M over 5 FY’s for WaterSMART programs, $1.2B for water storage and groundwater, and $25M for desalination projects.

The House agreed to vote on the Senate passed core infrastructure bill on September 27 without amendments, leaving to the “human infrastructure” bill the inclusion of other issues, including some actual infrastructure.

Manpower Mysteries

We are working with our trade union partners to increase their apprenticeship programs, but it is not enough. Some contractors are trying to recruit journeymen from other markets, but our high housing costs and taxation levels make it tough. Our non-union contractors are facing the prospect of wage inflation to attract more workers.

There is no quit in contracting, but some days are better than others.

By Garrett Francis, ECA President Email: [email protected]