AWWA applauds House-Senate changes to water infrastructure tool in transportation bill

Dec. 3, 2015
The American Water Works Association today applauded members of a U.S. House-Senate conference for agreeing to fix a flaw in the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act that limited its ability to address the enormous water infrastructure challenge in the United States.

(DENVER) -- The American Water Works Association today applauded members of a U.S. House-Senate conference for agreeing to fix a flaw in the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act that limited its ability to address the enormous water infrastructure challenge in the United States.

The WIFIA fix – which removes a ban on the use of tax-exempt bonds in combination with WIFIA loans -- emerged today from a House-Senate conference on surface transportation legislation. The transportation legislation and WIFIA fix are expected to pass the full Congress this week.

“The members of the House-Senate conference deserve our gratitude for recognizing the importance of a fully functional WIFIA in confronting America’s significant water infrastructure challenge,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance. “WIFIA loans will allow communities to move forward on critical water and wastewater infrastructure projects at a lower cost to their customers. On behalf of 50,000 members of the American Water Works Association, I applaud the leaders in Congress who recognized the wisdom in fixing WIFIA and generated support among their colleagues.”

Signed into law in 2014, WIFIA will provide low-interest federal loans for up to 49 percent of large drinking water, wastewater and water reuse projects. However, the law prohibited tax-exempt bonds from funding the remaining 51 percent, taking away the most cost-effective tool for communities that seek WIFIA loans.

“AWWA members, together with their many partners in the water sector, have worked for more than a year to help Congress understand the importance of fixing WIFIA,” LaFrance said. “We now urge the full House and Senate to swiftly pass the final transportation legislation and then to appropriate funds that allow WIFIA to do its important work.”

U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, chair of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, said in his opening statement for the conference that fixing WIFIA was one of his priorities for the surface transportation bill. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., ranking minority member for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, championed the WIFIA fix from the Senate side.

AWWA also recognized the work of Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Penn., chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, for their support in getting the WIFIA fix included in the transportation bill.

More than 130 AWWA water utility leaders from 47 states traveled to Washington D.C. in March to urge Congress to lift the ban on tax-exempt financing with WIFIA loans. They wore “Free WIFIA” buttons in more than 400 meetings on Capitol Hill. Since then, AWWA members, local elected leaders and other water sector professionals have written countless letters and made calls to their elected leaders to support the WIFIA fix.

Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource. With approximately 50,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life.

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