President Barack Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) into law in early June. It’s the first water resources bill to be approved since 2007.
Here are some 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.
In addition to authorizing several much-needed infrastructure projects, the $8.2 billion WRRDA bill includes the creation of a Water Infrastructure Finance Innovations Authority (WIFIA). The pilot WIFIA program is modeled after the existing Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program that has been providing financial assistance to the nation’s transportation infrastructure since 1998.
WIFIA will make low-interest federal loans available for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater projects. It is intended to 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 would 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 would also have the ability to access WIFIA financing by combining the costs of several 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.