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President Signs WRRDA, Authorizes Water Infrastructure Projects

capitolPresident Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) in June. It's the first water resources bill to be passed since 2007. The legislation includes $12.3 billion in funding for new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) water infrastructure projects. However, appropriations committees will ultimately decide how much money each project will receive.

WRRDA authorizes USACE flood management projects such as the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion project along the Red River, as well as projects to mitigate storm and hurricane damage. It will also restore ecosystems. For instance, one of the provisions included in WRRDA will keep invasive carp out of Minnesota’s waterways. In addition, the legislation authorizes USACE to assist State and local governments with levee safety programs and to help Native American tribes with water resources projects such as the Fort Peck Dry Prairie Rural Water System and the Rocky Boy's / North Central Regional Water System System projects in Montana.

Here are some additional highlights of the WRRDA legislation:

  • Provides funding for rural communities to comply with federal regulations.
  • Establishes hard deadlines on the time and cost of studies, and eliminates duplicative or unnecessary studies.
  • Maximizes the ability of non-federal interests to contribute their own funds to move studies and projects forward.
  • Expands the ability of non-federal interests to contribute funds to expedite the evaluation and processing of permits.
  • Establishes a Water Infrastructure Public Private Partnership Program and new options to expand the local role in project implementation.

WRRDA also includes the creation of a Water Infrastructure Finance Innovations Authority (WIFIA). The American Water Works Association (AWWA), Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies are a few of the prominent industry organizations that lobbied for the creation of WIFIA in order to make low-interest federal loans available for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater projects.

WIFIA will help public utilities of all sizes by providing a supplemental funding mechanism to the State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs for the completion of projects with costs greater than $20 million. This will reduce the financial demand by large projects and allow the existing SRF programs to fund an increased number of the smaller projects throughout the country. In order to provide increased flexibility to predominantly rural states, SRF programs that are experiencing a greater demand for loan funds will also have the ability to access WIFIA financing by aggregating the costs of multiple smaller projects to reach a combined loan amount of $20 million or more. WIFIA will borrow U.S. Treasury funds to provide low-interest loans, loan guarantees, or other credit support to local communities.



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