Federal, state and local officials from across the country gathered in Washington, DC on July 19 to discuss water infrastructure funding and financing strategies for communities in need. In the wake of the events in Flint, Michigan, EPA convened the day-long forum to explore funding opportunities across the federal government, including at EPA and the Departments of Housing & Urban Development, Agriculture and Commerce; to highlight innovative financing and community assistance programs; and to share other approaches to further leverage existing funding. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy kicked off the discussion with remarks on the importance of water to the nation’s economy, including a stern warning on the consequences of disinvestment in water infrastructure.
NACWA members speaking on the program and participating in the audience provided concrete examples where clean water utilities are already taking a leadership role. Louis Sheppard, Constituent Care Specialist with the City of Atlanta, Department of Watershed Management shared his perspectives on community engagement and how Atlanta’s programs for low-income customers are having a positive impact. Andy Kricun, NACWA Board Member and Executive Director/Chief Engineer for the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) discussed how the CCMUA was able to use State Revolving Fund loans to upgrade their treatment plant, address odors and provide other benefits to the community with essentially no increase in rates. Kricun also touted the importance of the Water Resources Utility of the Future work the clean water community is leading and how it will continue to increase the sustainability of clean water operations across the country. Gary Brown, Director of the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department highlighted their new customer assistance program aimed at helping low-income customers maintain essential water and wastewater services.
While next steps are currently under consideration, NACWA and the Office of Wastewater Management have already begun to explore additional opportunities to work together to further expand funding and financing opportunities.
NACWA's Board of Directors recently approved a Targeted Action Fund project to develop a resource guide to identify federal funding opportunities for utilities seeking low-cost financing assistance with various clean-water related projects. The guide will provide information of existing federal programs, in addition to the Clean Water SRF, for which clean water agencies may be eligible. The Association anticipates release of the guide early next year.
Maui County Files Reply Brief in Conduit Theory Appeal
The County of Maui has filed a reply brief in the appeal pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Hawaii Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui. The appeal arises from a district court decision adopting a novel “conduit” theory to hold that migration of pollutants from a properly permitted underground injection well, through groundwater into hydrologically connected navigable waters, violates the Clean Water Act (CWA). In the brief, the County rejects arguments made by the plaintiffs and the Department of Justice (DOJ) that the conduit theory arises out of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Rapanos, and that an NPDES permit is required for discharges into groundwater with a direct hydrologic connection to surface water. The County’s brief reaffirms the argument that a point source discharge is the threshold test for application of the NPDES permit program.
Because of the risk of citizen suit litigation using the district court’s conduit theory for liability under the CWA, NACWA filed an amicus brief in March urging reversal by the court. The County’s reply brief concludes the briefing in the appeal.
OECA Requests Feedback on Policy to Address Climate Risks
NACWA and chairs of its Facility & Collection System, Legal Affairs, and Climate & Resiliency committees met with EPA's Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance (OECA) on Wednesday July 20 regarding a potential enforcement policy addressing climate risks in Clean Water Act enforcement remedies. The potential policy is intended to be a checklist or guidance document, incorporated by agreement, to ensure climate impacts are considered as communities negotiate consent orders.
OECA staff are interested in the tools clean water utilities use when they perform vulnerability and risk analyses, part of most utilities’ best practices. They are seeking input on what processes and tools utilities use in their analyses, what they are finding, and how the utility develops solutions and prepares to address the findings of such analyses. This OECA one pager has a more thorough explanation of the policy and the Office’s information request. While the timeline for the policy’s development is unclear, NACWA requests Member Agency feedback by August 19.
NACWA staff has done an analysis within its Consent Decree e-Library and found that only eight out of 209 consent decrees (4%) contained references to climate or adaptive management. The majority do so by outlining the various systems in place to provide information on any potential increases in flows, overflows or severe storms. EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) and Climate Resilience Evaluation & Awareness Tool (CREAT) are the most frequently cited tools.
Summer Recess- A Great Opportunity to Host your Members of Congress
Members of Congress have left Washington, DC until September to spend time in their home states or districts (and on the campaign trail). NACWA urges its Member Agencies to make the most of this opportunity by inviting federal elected officials to tour their facilities and see clean water work in action. Tours are an important way to drive home the messages NACWA takes to the Hill regarding both the opportunities utilities are embracing and the challenges they face. Summer can also be a good time to sit down with Congressional staffers regarding key issues. Please contact
, NACWA Legislative Affairs Manager, to discuss the status of any federal legislation in advance of planned visits or with any questions.
NACWA Members Comment on WIFIA Materials
NACWA members joined several national water associations on comments in response to EPA’s Information Collection RequestInformation Collection Request (ICR) on program materials for the Water Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (WIFIA). Authorized in the 2014 Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRDA), the WIFIA program is designed to provide low-cost loans and loan guarantees for clean water and drinking water projects. This new financing tool targets large, regional water-related infrastructure projects of national significance that may not be able to easily access financing under the State Revolving Fund Programs.
EPA is expected to launch the WIFIA program early next year in anticipation of Congressional approval of the Administration’s FY17 budget request. The House proposed FY17 EPA spending package contains $50 million for the program, the Senate has included $30 million in its package. NACWA will continue to monitor and report on developments related to the WIFIA program rollout.
Input Requested for Water Utility, Land-Use Planning Survey
As integrated planning gains traction in the Interior-EPA Appropriations bill, Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF) and the Water Research Foundation (WRF) are conducting a survey to ensure these efforts can be implemented smoothly at the municipal level. The objective of the survey is to better understand the coordination challenges between water providers and land-use planners. WRF and WE&RF will use the results to develop new recommendations, tools and further research for water utility operators and other municipal stakeholders.
As leaders in wastewater and stormwater management, NACWA Member Agencies are uniquely positioned to provide input to identify avenues for enhanced collaboration toward a more integrated and sustainable water management model. Survey participants will be entered into a prize drawing to win an iPad Mini. If you are interested in taking part in the survey, the deadline for participation is August 5, 2016.
NACWA’s Engage™ online community provides and exceptional platform for Association members to discuss a wide variety of issues. Trending this week are threads on contractor safety programs, seasonal water quality standards and agency energy visions. Why not add to the conversation and join our community? Get engaged today!