News Briefs: Budget Deal Protects Rural Water Loan and Grant Program

In this week’s news briefs, Trump’s proposed budget cuts targeting water programs don’t make it through Congress, and a New York county looking to transition from septic to sewer hopes funding in a new state law can help
News Briefs: Budget Deal Protects Rural Water Loan and Grant Program

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The Trump administration’s proposed cuts that would have impacted the nation’s water infrastructure will not come to fruition for now.

The president signed a 2017 spending agreement last week negotiated by Congress. The deal does not include measures such as the elimination of a rural water loan and grant program and a one-third cut to the EPA that Trump had initially called for.

“We were pleased to see water funding maintained in the omnibus, and that demonstrates water is a bipartisan issue and a significant national priority,” Kristina Surfus, director of legislative affairs at the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, told Circle of Blue.

According to the deal, EPA funding will decrease by only 1 percent in 2017, and funding for the agency’s two main water infrastructure loan programs will remain at their 2016 levels. A new infrastructure loan program, the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, received an additional $10 million.

Another major part of the budget deal is the $571 million allotted for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural water loan and grant program. That’s an increase of $48 million whereas in Trump’s plan it had been eliminated completely.

Source: Circle of Blue

Cost to Repair Fraser Sinkhole Expected to Increase
The condition of the sewer that collapsed on Christmas Eve in Fraser, Michigan, creating a massive sinkhole is as bad as expected, according to officials.

Engineers recently got their first good view of the damage. Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller told Macomb Daily that the project will likely require additional work, though it isn’t expected to extend the timeline for finishing the project.

“We’ll have a better idea on the scope of things next week,” Miller said recently during a tour of the site with state and local officials. “Hopefully, it won’t take longer, but it probably will add several million dollars to the (estimated $75 million) bill.”

The goal is to have the project finished by September.

The county has hired a company to inspect 17 miles of pipe surrounding the collapsed section to assess whether any other areas have pressing issues. Miller says the plan is to put a link to the footage on the public works website.

“I think it will have great viewership,” Miller told Macomb Daily. “We want to be transparent and let people see what it looks like. People are interested in this.”

Source: Macomb Daily

Suffolk County Plans to Tap New York’s New Water Fund to Build Sewer Infrastructure
Suffolk County, New York, is hoping to make gains with its sewer infrastructure with the help of the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed last month.

According to a report in the New York Times, Suffolk County has 360,000 septic systems — about the same number as all of New Jersey — and for years has dealt with water quality issues in its groundwater, rivers and bays due to nitrogen seepage from leaky septic tanks.

“What we have been doing for decades is just managing the decline of water quality,” Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone told the Times. “Every water body is listed as impaired. We have dead rivers, closed beaches, harmful algal blooms.”

The new state law spans five years and includes $1.5 billion in grants for water infrastructure improvements, $75 million in rebates to help homeowners replace septic systems, and $110 million to protect land in watersheds.

Bellone says the main reason why septic systems have persisted in Suffolk County is that the last attempt to install a sewer system in the 1980s was mired in corruption, delays and cost overruns.

“It was the biggest scandal in the county’s history,” Bellone told the Times. “The appetite politically to do anything on this issue was nonexistent after that.”

The high cost of building sewer infrastructure has also been a hurdle, and the county’s strategy has mostly been focused on coaxing homeowners to replace their antiquated septic systems. But the new state law could help various efforts to build sewer infrastructure actually get underway.

“We’ll be looking to get every dollar we can out of the $2.5 billion,” Suffolk County Deputy Executive Peter Scully told the Times.

Source: New York Times


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