8/02/2013 — 

PROVIDENCE, RI – In an effort to help create jobs and improve Rhode Island’s water quality, U.S. Senator Jack Reed is seeking to boost federal investments in upgrading our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure.  Today, Reed joined with Vincent J. Mesolella, Chairman of the Narragansett Bay Commission; William Sequino Jr., Executive Director of the Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Agency; and Janine Burke, Executive Director of the Warwick Sewer Authority to unveil plans to provide Rhode Island with $18.4 million in fiscal year 2014 to upgrade its water infrastructure.

Reed is the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment and has championed efforts to robustly fund the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs), which provide loans to communities throughout Rhode Island to fund improvements to their wastewater, stormwater, and drinking water facilities.  SRFs make both short-term and long-term investments in communities across the country and provide financial savings for clean water and drinking water projects that protect public health, preserve the environment, and help conserve local watersheds.   Under Reed’s bill, Rhode Island would receive $9.53 million through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $8.87 million through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

Overall, Reed included $2.36 billion for SRFs in the Chairman’s mark of the fiscal year 2014 Interior Appropriations bill, which was released yesterday.  Reed provided $1.76 billion more in the Senate bill than the version approved by U.S. House of Representatives appropriators'($600 million).  The Senate bill also provides $460 million more for SRFs than what President Obama proposed in his budget ($1.9 billion).

“Upgrading our water infrastructure is essential to ensuring quality water service for Rhode Islanders.  The federal government needs to be a reliable partner when it comes to maintaining healthy, safe water in our communities.  My bill would help put Rhode Islanders to work modernizing our water infrastructure, reducing pollution, and protecting public health.  The House’s proposed cuts to these clean water and drinking water projects are shortsighted and would simply pass the buck to local governments and force them to raise utility fees and taxes in order to close the funding gap,” noted Reed.

SRF federal capitalization funding is leveraged by combined state matching funds, program repayments, and bond and interest proceeds, to form a source of low-interest financing for water infrastructure projects.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the nation's water utilities will need to make more than $633 billion in water infrastructure investments by 2030 to ensure families have access to clean, healthy water.  Examples of needed investments include replacing thousands of miles of pipe and upgrades to treatment plants, storage tanks, and other water infrastructure assets.  And the American Society of Civil Engineers gave water infrastructure a D in its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.  In Rhode Island, the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management have identified approximately $1.5 billion in priority projects.

“The need for SRF funding outweighs the available dollars.  This federal funding is really just a drop in the bucket compared to what we need to invest to meet Rhode Island’s clean water needs.  Cutting funding while the need for clean water is increasing and pipes are crumbling is only going to make for costlier repairs in the long run,” concluded Reed.

From 2000 to 2012, Senator Reed has helped secure $107.2 million for Rhode Island in Clean Water State Revolving Funds and over $117 million for Rhode Island in Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.