States, tribes get first installment of EPA stimulus funding
Three Northwest states, Alaska, and tribal governments will receive more than $297 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for clean water projects to create jobs and protect communities and the environment. The federal funding is the first installment of EPA funding available to support states and tribes under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which President Obama signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009.
The individual amounts directed to Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and tribal governments will be delivered via existing programs: the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) and the Tribal Clean Water & Drinking Water Set-Aside programs. Alaska will receive $43 million, Idaho will receive $39 million, Oregon will receive $73 million, and Washington will receive $111 million.
In addition, Alaska tribal water infrastructure will receive $27 million. EPA will provide $4.4 million for tribal water infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest.
These funds will supplement existing annual EPA grants to the states. The states use these funds to issue loans for enhancing, upgrading and rebuilding public drinking water systems and public wastewater systems, as well as funding non-point source projects. The new law provides states with additional flexibility in loan terms by requiring that at least 50% of the funding be provided in subsidies such as principal forgiveness or negative interest rates. States and watershed planning organizations will also benefit from the new law through the provision of small planning grants to address specific water quality problems.
According to Michelle Pirzadeh, EPA’s acting regional administrator in Seattle, the funding will go a long way to help protect Northwest water quality and families that depend on safe drinking water.
“This is great news for our communities and the environment,” said Pirzadeh. “Everyone agrees that safe, clean water is a fundamental building-block of both healthy communities and local economies. States and Tribes will use up to 20% of the funds for water and energy efficiency and other innovative projects. This initiative both makes an important down payment to fix our aging infrastructure and offers workers well-paid, ‘green’ jobs.”v
The states and federal agencies are working to identify the best projects. Opportunities for public comments on each state’s proposed list of projects will occur in the next several weeks. As soon as those are final, EPA will provide the funding. EPA officials expect the funding to flow to the states beginning in April.
Funding for tribal drinking water and wastewater infrastructure occurs in a partnership between EPA, tribes and the Indian Health Service (IHS). EPA’s funding will transfer to IHS, who manages the water-related infrastructure construction for tribes. IHS expects to be able to begin using the funding in April.