APA’s Statement on the Water Resources Development Act

The American Planning Association supports the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s commitments to improving water infrastructure, promoting resiliency, supporting planning efforts, and enhancing freight mobility through its passage of the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA).

This bill advances some of APA’s core interests, and we are glad Congress is moving forward on these important issues.

First, we greatly appreciate the fact that the planning and design phase of drinking water projects is now eligible for state revolving fund loans. Sound planning is critical to ensuring new drinking water projects effectively serve communities and efficiently utilize available resources. Recognizing the importance of the planning process in drinking water infrastructure development will ensure future projects maximize community benefit by taking a wide array of community factors into account.

Furthermore, WRDA includes several provisions prioritizing resiliency in water management projects. Specifically, APA strongly supports the measure that directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promote and coordinate the use of green infrastructure in these types of projects. Incorporating green infrastructure into the permitting, planning, design, and development process will help reduce water pollution and protect water resources, thereby improving community and environment health and vitality.

This measure and others promoting sustainability are important steps towards building more resilient communities that can stand up to 21st century hazards.

We thank the committee for their recognition of the importance of the planning process and for their support for resiliency provisions in WRDA. We are also pleased to see language from Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-Md.) 2009 Water Infrastructure Financing Act (S. 1005) included as the basis of strengthening the Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) through WRDA.

As a final package moves to the floor, however, we urge the Senate to consider Cardin’s efforts to increase investments made to both SRFs. These SRFs provide low-cost financing to communities for infrastructure projects that improve water quality. They work in coordination with WIFIA and serve a critical role in making communities safer, cleaner, and healthier.

Unfortunately, recent levels of investment in these SRFs have not been able to keep up with communities’ needs when it comes to repairing and updating water infrastructure. We are grateful for Cardin’s leadership in championing increased funding for these SRFs. As a result, we urge the committee to include the funding authorization levels he identifies in the FUND Water Act (S. 2583) in any final WRDA package. Reinvigorated investments in these SRFs will greatly help local communities improve their aging and outdated water infrastructure.

In addition to recognizing the importance of the planning process and promoting resiliency, we support efforts to clarify and strengthen the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). Established in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, the WIFIA program aims to provide low interest rate financing for larger, more costly water and wastewater infrastructure projects. The Senate’s new investment in WIFIA through WRDA demonstrates strong support for helping communities finance projects that improve their water infrastructure.

Once again, APA would like to express its gratitude to the Committee for the work it has done to advance planning and resilience through WRDA. We hope a final package can include increased authorization levels for the Clean and Drinking Water SRFs and look forward to working with both the Senate and the House to advance this important legislation.

About the Author

Kirsten Holland is the policy associate for Advocacy Associates.

Image: Downtown Columbus Riverfront. Photo by Randall L. Schieber.

May 2, 2016

By Kirsten Holland