EPA closes on more WIFIA loans EPA announced it closed on new loans under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program this summer. WIFIA provides loans for projects traditionally outside the size or scope of other water infrastructure loan programs. The loan closings are for the following projects: • Two loans for the Willamette Water Supply System -- one to Tualatin Valley Water District (TVWD) and the other to the City of Hillsboro (COH). This is the first time WIFIA financing has been provided for two individual borrowers partnering on a joint project. The WIFIA loans will provide approximately $388 million for TVWD and $251 million for COH to fund investments in the Willamette system. When completed, this project will provide TVWD and COH additional seismically resilient water supply capacity. • A $218 million loan to Silicon Valley Clean Water (SVCW) to finance wastewater infrastructure upgrades that will protect public health and the San Francisco Bay. SVCW's Regional Environmental Sewer Conveyance Upgrade Program will rehabilitate aging wastewater infrastructure and construct new facilities to improve the system’s safety and reliability. AWWA led efforts to get WIFIA enacted into law in 2014. Authorization of the program expires at the end of the 2020 federal fiscal year. The program has grown in popularity and reauthorization will be a legislative goal for AWWA in the coming year. Congress may opt for stopgap bill to fund government Appropriations bills will likely top the agendas of lawmakers in both chambers when the U.S. Congress returns from summer recess Sept. 9. The Senate has yet to make any real progress on appropriations for fiscal year 2020, which begins Oct. 1. That leaves just three work weeks for senators to complete a process that usually takes months to hash out. A stopgap funding bill, or “continuing resolution,” may be necessary through the end of November or into December while lawmakers work to finish yearlong appropriations bills. This means that programs for EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would receive funding at fiscal year 2019 levels through the end of the year. This likely won’t have a major impact on established water sector programs such as WIFIA or the state revolving loan fund (SRF) program, but it could delay forward motion on implementing provisions of the farm bill related to protecting source waters through conservation programs. EPA issues annual report on drinking water SRF EPA has released its annual report on the drinking water state revolving loan fund (SRF) program, which funded more than $2.8 billion in new infrastructure projects in fiscal 2018. The program also provided $181 million for operator certification, capacity development of water systems and source water protection activities. The agency is promising to make the program more effective by focusing on cash flow management and community outreach. Created in 1996, the drinking water SRF program provides low-cost loans for infrastructure projects addressing the most serious, immediate risks to public health and those needed to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. It also focuses on communities demonstrating the most need based on household affordability criteria. Funding available through NRCS for source water protection The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced $300 million in available funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). This program encourages partnerships to address natural resource concerns related to agriculture at scale. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, at least 10% of NRCS conservation spending will go toward protecting drinking water sources. Utilities are encouraged to form partnerships with other interested stakeholders (such as conservation districts, agricultural groups, watershed groups, etc.) and apply for RCPP funding. Application details are available on NRCS’s website . The lead partner on each project should complete the application by December 3. NRCS will hold a webinar on the RCPP application process on Sept. 26 at 3 p.m. ET. The registration link is not yet live but should be posted on the RCPP website soon . U.S. Rep. Shimkus announces retirement U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., top-ranking Republican on the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over drinking water, has announced he will retire from Congress when the current session ends in 2020. Shimkus also served as chair of the House Subcommittee on Environment, now called the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. AWWA has worked closely with Shimkus and his staff on a range of drinking water issues, from infrastructure to water quality legislation. Two other Republicans on the full House Committee on Energy and Commerce -- the broader committee with jurisdiction over drinking water -- have announced they will not run for re-election: Rep. Peter Olson of Texas and Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana. Next in seniority on the minority side of the subcommittee is Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington. Water utilities help create South Carolina conservation easements Two drinking water utilities – the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority and the City of Savannah – have teamed up with the Savannah River Clean Water Fund to create two conservation easements along the Savannah River in South Carolina. The two properties, known as Groton Plantation and Big Snooks, cover more than 14,000 acres. The Savannah River watershed provides drinking water to more than 1.5 million people in two states, South Carolina and Georgia. Former AWWA President Joe Mantua is general manager of the Beaufort-Jasper Authority. He said, “Protecting healthy, well-managed forests and other natural lands in the watershed is one more way water utilities help ensure clean, reliable water for our customers.” Other partners in the project include The Nature Conservancy, the Low Country Trust, South Carolina Conservation Bank, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and The Longleaf Alliance.