Mast Introduces Bill to Accelerate Investment in Water Infrastructure

Nov 30 • 132 Views • View Comments

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U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today introduced the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Reauthorization Act of 2017 to extend and double the funding authorization for a critical credit assistance program designed to accelerate investment in our nation’s water infrastructure.  The bipartisan bill—co-sponsored by Representatives Bob Gibbs (OH-7), Sean Maloney (NY-12) and Julia Brownley (CA-26)—extends the authorization for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) until 2024 and doubles the authorization to $90 million.

“The water issues in our community have been devastating, and it’s clear that we need to do more to make every possible tool available to fix the problem,” Rep. Mast said.  “Strengthening this bipartisan program will make more resources available for ecosystem restoration, non-point source pollution management projects, estuary conservation projects and more.”

Established as part of the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee pilot program that aims to accelerate investment in our nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects.  WIFIA offers greater financial flexibility to utilities, municipalities, nonprofits and other eligible entities who may lack the capacity to fund water infrastructure upgrades by helping cover up to 49% of the project costs.   The pilot program is currently set to expire in 2019.

“Improving public water systems can be costly, and EPA consent decrees put considerable pressure on the budgets of cities and municipalities,” Rep. Gibbs said.  “Rather than putting the squeeze on local officials, EPA can utilize WIFIA and help supplement state revolving funds to assist local governments in providing safe and affordable water utilities and make necessary repairs to their aging water infrastructure.  Clean drinking water is an important issue for all Americans, and I am proud to have helped craft this bill.”

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act reauthorizes WIFIA for an additional five years (FY2020 to FY2024). The authorization of appropriations is doubled (from $45 million in FY2018 to $90 million in FY2019) and the annual incremental increase of authorized appropriations for the successive five years is also doubled (from $5 million to $10 million). Annual authorization of administrative costs is increased from $2.2 million to $3 million.

In response to its Notice of Funding Availability, the WIFIA program received 43 letters of interest from prospective borrowers totaling more than $6 billion in requested loans.  These letters, including for three projects in Florida, demonstrate the demand for increased investment capacity.   The increased funding authorization provided by this bill would increase the amount available for loans from approximately $1.5 billion to more than $5 billion.

“Water systems are falling apart all over the country and we can’t afford to wait or cheap out on fixing them – all Americans deserve access to clean water and our bill would provide it,” Rep. Maloney said. “This legislation is the product of a months-long, bipartisan effort and we’re going to keep working together to get this thing passed into law.”

“From ecosystem restoration, to navigation and flood risk mitigation, Army Corps of Engineers projects are critical for many local communities across the country. Ensuring these public works can be financed through the WIFIA program will give states and local communities an additional tool to develop important projects,” Rep. Brownley said.  “Working with a bipartisan group, including Congressmen Brian Mast, Sean Patrick Maloney, and Bob Gibbs, I am hopeful that we can move this legislation quickly so that the Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency can work together to advance critical infrastructure projects.”

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Reauthorization Act makes the following additional changes to the WIFIA Program:

  • Amends current law to grant the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrative authority to allocate WIFIA funds to applicants that are selected. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) shall issue guidance on information that will be necessary for selection of applications under their jurisdiction and will have approval authority of those applications.
  • Directs all applications for WIFIA funds be submitted to the EPA Administrator, with concurrent applications for any project under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps be submitted to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.
  • EPA shall run all applications through the financial services process already established to determine credit worthiness of the proposals. Army Corps will provide subject matter expertise on an application’s operations and maintenance plan. Both the EPA and Army Corps will jointly establish criteria for final selection of all applications.
  • EPA shall coordinate with OMB and rating agencies to determine the appropriate capital requirements for each selected application, set the terms and conditions of the loan, and collect fees.
  • EPA will administer the WIFIA office and receive administration appropriations from Congress to do so.
  • EPA shall be responsible for publishing information on WIFIA applications for public disclosure. Two years after enactment of this reauthorization, GAO will issue a report summarizing the proposals received under WIFIA.

Additional information about WIFIA program eligibility is available here.  Interested potential applicants can attend an in-person or digital information session.  Answers from the EPA to frequently asked questions about WIFIA are available here.

 

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