PROVIDENCE, RI – In an effort to help create jobs and improve Rhode Island’s water quality, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today announced $18.4 million in fiscal year 2014 to help upgrade the state’s water infrastructure.

Today, Reed joined with Vincent J. Mesolella, Chairman of the Narragansett Bay Commission; Janet Coit, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM); and William Sequino Jr., Executive Director of the Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Agency to discuss how these funds will be put to work and future plans for water infrastructure management and financing. 

Last year, due to the sequester cuts, the state received $16,042,000 in SRF funding.  This year, House Republicans had sought further cuts to the program, but Reed was able to restore the funding through the Appropriations process.

Reed, the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment, 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.  Overall, the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill Reed helped write includes $2.36 billion for SRFs in fiscal year 2014.

“Clean water is essential for public health and our economy and I worked hard to ensure Rhode Island got the best deal we could get.  The federal government needs to be a reliable partner when it comes to maintaining healthy, safe water in our communities and I am proud to have secured this vital funding to help put Rhode Islanders to work modernizing our water infrastructure, reducing pollution, and protecting public health,” said Reed.  “This is a smart investment in providing communities with low-cost financing for high-priority water projects.  The state can leverage these funds and put them to work on water and wastewater construction projects across Rhode Island.”

“Rhode Island is so fortunate to have Jack Reed in the Senate where he continues to deliver critical federal funding to support our infrastructure.  These federal funds are an essential part of a comprehensive effort to improve the quality of the bay for all Rhode Islanders.  Fortunately, Senator Reed's work dovetails with Governor Chafee’s clean water bond proposal, in his budget, submitted earlier this week.  Together, these programs will invest millions of dollars for jobs and infrastructure that improve our rivers and bays,” said Janet Coit, Director of RIDEM.

“We have brought Rhode Island back from a dangerous brink where clean water is concerned, and this is due in no small part to the funds available through the Clean Water SRF.  Without Senator Reed’s active engagement on this issue, the Narragansett Bay Commission would not have been able to achieve the success it has for all Rhode Islanders who love clean rivers and a healthy bay,” said Narragansett Bay Commission Chairman Vincent Mesolella.

"This was a double win for Rhode Island.  Senator Reed's win on $9.5 million in Clean Water funds will complement Governor Chaffee's proposed $20 million bond issue for our agency making additional funds available for water pollution abatement  because of our ability to leverage.  In addition, $8.9 million for Rhode Island's drinking water program will secure safe drinking water for many Rhode Islanders.  Senator Reed is to be commended," stated William Sequino Jr., Executive Director of the Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Agency.

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.   Thanks to Reed’s language in the bill, Rhode Island will receive about $9.53 million through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $8.87 million through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

The $2.36 billion for SRFs in the Omnibus Appropriations bill represents a significant victory for Reed and clean water proponents nationwide.  Appropriators in the U.S. House of Representatives had proposed allotting just $600 million for SRFs, but Reed successfully argued that this shortsighted approach would simply pass the buck to local governments and force them to raise utility fees and taxes in order to close the funding gap.  Ultimately Reed was able to win bipartisan backing for his higher proposed level of $2.36 billion for SRFs, an increase of $1.76 billion above what the House had approved.

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.