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What's New

Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project (Colorado) Language and Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA) Authorized in Water Resources and Development Act of 2014.

 
 
Federal Update: 5/30/2014

Actual passage of a bill in Congress can happen pretty quickly. After six months of negotiations, a House/Senate committee agreed to the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) of 2014 final bill and filed their conference report on May 15. The compromise bill was then approved by the U. S. House of Representatives on a 412-4 vote on May 20 and on a 91-7 vote by the U. S. Senate on May 22. It is now on its way to President Obama for his signature, after which it will be law. For those of us who have been waiting for seven years for a new WRDA reauthorization bill, this month’s progress is a victory to be celebrated and a call to start now on the next one. The conference report includes a sense-of-the-Congress statement calling for restoring WRDA reauthorizations to their traditional every-two-years cycle. The final bill includes language for the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project. Agreement was reached by the conferees through technical corrections language for the South Platte River Watershed (Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project) that will allow the State of Colorado Department of Natural Resources to designate an entity to implement the project. Price Howlett, Inc. principals has been working with the State of Colorado, the Colorado Congressional delegation, particularly Senator Mark Udall and Senator Michael Bennet and U. S. Representatives Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Mike Coffman, and the Chatfield water providers for several years for this change to the existing law. Congratulations to all. The conference report (final bill) also includes a section that creates a pilot Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA). American Water Works Association (AWWA), Water Environment Federation (WEF), the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the Water and Sewer Distributors of America and numerous state and local governments and civic and water organizations have determinedly promoted the need and benefits of WIFIA to Congressional leaders. The creation of WIFIA is “a significant breakthrough in confronting the U.S. water infrastructure challenge” according to American Water Works Association CEO David LaFrance. A 2012 AWWA report projected that over the next 25 years Americans will invest $1 trillion in repair and expansion of drinking water infrastructure alone. Wastewater facility costs are projected to be in the same range and postponing infrastructure investments will only increase future costs. WIFIA will, once it is fully implemented, provide low-interest federal loans to communities to reduce the cost of financing large water and wastewater infrastructure projects. If a utility saves just two percentage points in interest rates on a 30-year loan, it could mean as much as a 25 percent savings in financing of a project. On large projects, the savings can amount to hundreds of millions of dollars that would otherwise be absorbed through customer bills over many years. AWWA and WEF have praised WIFIA as an important step forward, but they encourage future adjustments to the program to achieve its “full potential.”


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