White House Briefing on Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Guidebook: Water (EPA)

March 15, 2022

 

Stephanie Sykes, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure Implementation, White House

A few weeks ago, the White House released a guidebook for state and local governments as a resource for stakeholders and is intended as a roadmap, and it contains the most comprehensive information the White House has to date on the more than 375 programs in the bipartisan infrastructure law. President Biden and the entire team here have made it a priority to make sure that we’re giving all the resources that are needed to make sure that this money hits the ground and reaches all corners of this country. Over $100 billion has been announced, allocated, or headed to states Territories, and local governments. There’s been some key plans and offices that have also been announced. The White House has also announced some public notice periods and that covers a lot of different areas, including clean energy, electric vehicles that will be discussed today. high-speed internet grid modernization lead pipes and paint orphan wells, and most recently, a Great Lakes Restoration announcement.

Wendi Wilkes, Senior Advisor Office of Water, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the single largest investment in water that the federal government has ever made, the $50 billion going to the EPA to strengthen the nation’s drinking water and wastewater. The state revolving loan funding (SRF) programs have been around for a long time and continue to work towards providing clean water for many parts of the country. Congress recognized the success of the SRF programs and added a substantial amount of funding to the programs. EPA recently released an implementation guide for states and localities around the SRF community. The first goal of the SRF program is to provide states and borrowers the funding to try and tackle local water challenges which are different across states. The second priority is an increased investment in disadvantaged communities which is a high priority for the EPA. Of the SRF funding, 49% will be distributed to disadvantaged communities as grants, and 25% of the forgivable loans will be given to disadvantaged communities. Some programs will provide loans and funding for the water-drinking there are SRF programs that deal with emerging contaminant funding. There is also $15 billion for lead service line replacement which brings the drinking water total number to $30.7 billion that will be available to states and communities. Like the previous programs, 49% of this funding must be given out through grants and forgivable loans to disadvantaged communities. The EPA has resources on its website for stakeholders to check if their community is disadvantaged or not. Stakeholders should contact their state to engage in an SRF program. The EPA is partnered with many state entities and through those partnerships, water projects around the country will deliver on the Biden administration’s promise to deliver clean water projects.

Winnie Stachelberg, Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator, Department of the Interior (DOI)

President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes one of the most significant investments in drought resilience in the country’s history. The investment of $8.3 billion in the Bureau of Reclamation programs over five years is a historic opportunity to dramatically advance Reclamation’s mission, delivering water and power, in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner for the American West. The law will address the climate crisis and expand access to clean drinking water.

Matthew Maucieri, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Department of Interior

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes a historic investment in reclamation and western water infrastructure. Reclamation projects have been appropriated $8.3 billion over five years which will be $1.6 billion annually. The funding is spread across a dozen reclamation program areas that are described in the bill. The Bureau is mainly focused on the 17 western states although some programs will impact states like Hawaii and Alaska. The Bureau has around 12 funding opportunities through 2022 and some programs are rolling out as soon as this week. Water Storage is the first topic, and the bill has tasked the Bureau with finding new innovative ways of storing water and finding new ways to combat droughts. These efforts will be led by states and local parties along with programs that will expand existing federal reservoirs in the west. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law gave the Bureau $1 billion of funding for water storage programs. The second point is aging infrastructure and the bill appropriated $3.2 billion to tackle this issue. The Bureau is coming up with a list of projects that will be presented to Congress. After those projects are submitted to Congress funding for the approved programs will be awarded. The third topic is rural water projects there are 7 rural water projects under construction now, and the bill appropriated $1 billion to accelerate those existing projects. Large water scale programs were also funded, and those programs are water projects that require more than a half a billion-dollar investment. Historically, the federal government covers 25% of those programs’ funding, and the other 75% of the funding is covered by non-federal entities. This project received $450 million and will help to accelerate existing large-scale projects, as well as help to fund new projects. Water-smart grants are an umbrella for programs that deal with conservation, use renewable energy, and small-scale efficiency projects. The Bipartisan Infrastructure bill allocated $400 million for water-smart grant projects, and that funding will allow more project applications to be fulfilled.

Q&A:

Sykes asked Wilkes for funding source suggestions for an entity looking to bolster their water supply issues like growth or conservation. Wilkes said that the EPA state revolving loan funds are perfect for someone in that situation. SRF deals with hard infrastructure for wastewater treatment plants along with drinking water plants.

Sykes asked Wilkes what the best way for Tribes is to access technical assistance. Wilkes said that tribe technical assistance is provided through the Tribal Public Water System Supervision Grant as well as the WIIN Act for Tribal programs.

Sykes asked Wilkes how agencies will ensure that disadvantaged communities are connected to the funding that will improve water quality. Wilkes said that 49% of funding through the SFR program must be awarded to disadvantaged communities as defined by the state.