Local Congressmen Announce New Federal Aid for Rebuilding Water and Sewer Infrastructure


WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 22, 2014 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Representatives Tim Murphy (PA-18) and Mike Doyle (PA-14) announced today that the water resources legislation Congress is about to enact includes a new financing option for water and wastewater infrastructure in the final version of the bill.

“The Water Resources bill that Congress is expected to approve today includes a new potential source of financial assistance for communities in Allegheny County that need to upgrade their sewer systems,” Congressman Doyle said in announcing the news. “It’s called the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act – ‘WIFIA’ for short. We’ve been working for years to secure federal assistance for the effort to bring our outdated local sewer systems into compliance with modern water quality laws – including low-interest loans or loan guarantees. While there’s no guarantee that ALCOSAN and communities in Allegheny County will get assistance through WIFIA, authorizing this program is an important first step. I’m pleased that we had a role in working for WIFIA’s inclusion in the final version of the bill. Now we’ll start working on securing funding for WIFIA and helping Allegheny County governments apply for that assistance.”

“In Southwestern Pennsylvania, we have a tremendous amount of public works projects awaiting action – from rebuilding aging sewer infrastructure in Allegheny County to extending municipal water systems in rural Greene County,” Congressman Murphy noted. “Now under the WIFIA program that Congressman Doyle and I advanced, both urban and rural areas will have to the financial tools necessary to build out water and sewer projects without burdening federal taxpayers with new risks.”

The House is expected to take final action on H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) later today, and the Senate is expected to do so soon. The Conference Report on the Water Resources Development Act includes the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA, authorizes pilot projects with innovative new ways of financing water infrastructure projects.

WIFIA could help local communities in Allegheny County reduce water pollution in our region. In 1997, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified dozens of communities in Allegheny County that they would have to eliminate combined sewer overflows and existing sanitary sewer overflows in their wastewater disposal and treatment systems. After a prolonged series of negotiations, ALCOSAN and 83 local communities signed a consent agreement with the EPA and the US Department of Justice specifying that they would eliminate all of the sanitary sewer overflows and reduce pollution from the combined sewer overflows substantially by 2026.

A year ago, ALCOSAN released a plan for reducing annual combined sewer overflow discharges by 79 percent – at a cost of $2 billion. To fund even this plan, ratepayers in the ALCOSAN system would have to pay sewer fees that would grow by more than 10 percent each year for the foreseeable future. Such increases would be simply unaffordable for the low-income residents of many communities in the ALCOSAN service area.

Congressmen Doyle and Murphy have been working with local leaders for a number of years to develop a better, more cost-effective plan for reducing pollution discharges from the sewer system. One approach they have supported was the creation of a program like WIFIA that could reduce the cost of these changes to local ratepayers by providing a new way to finance the needed improvements in ALCOSAN’s wastewater collection and treatment system.

In March, Congressmen Doyle and Murphy, along with 16 of their colleagues, sent a letter to the House Chairmen and Ranking Members serving on the Conference Committee on H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), urging them to include language in the Conference Report that would establish federal low-interest loans or loan guarantees for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

The final version of the Water Resource Development Act that was approved by the Conference Committee would authorize a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program to provide low-interest rate federal loans or loan guarantees to local governments to help them address their water and wastewater infrastructure needs.


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