House, Senate Disagree on SRF Funding Levels

The House and Senate have adjourned without reaching an agreement on funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF).

The House and Senate have adjourned without reaching an agreement on funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF). While the Senate has approved $1.35 billion for the fund, the House Appropriations Committee for the first time passed a measure that would cut the SRF funding by 37 percent.

Congress is expected to return for a lame-duck session during the week of Nov. 15. They are expected to pass an omnibus funding packet to incorporate the remaining fiscal 2005 appropriation bills. So far, Congress has cleared only four out of 13 appropriation bills.

The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development (VA-HUD) and Independent Agencies' appropriations package (S. 1584) which included full funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The bill would fund the CWSRF at the fiscal year 2004 level of $1.35 billion, compared with the $850 million approved by the House Appropriations Committee.

In July, the House Subcommittee on VA-HUD and Independent Agencies and the full Appropriations Committee slashed clean water funding by almost $500 million – a 37 percent reduction from last year. Lawmakers in the House and Senate must now negotiate a mutually acceptable funding level for the CWSRF.

The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) and a broad coalition of state and local organizations, labor, construction and environmental and public health groups helped spur the Senate Committee's action, through meetings with key congressional staff and letter writing campaigns.

The coalition also released a timely report, All Dried Up: How Clean Water Is Threatened by Budget Cuts (www. 2004-09-15ADU.pdf), which was disseminated to targeted members of Congress via a press release. Specifically, the report focuses on the effects that not restoring full funding would have; including the federal assistance each state stands to lose, how many jobs would not be created and the number of water improvement projects held up or scrapped.

Congress Approves CALFED Funding Bill

The House of Representatives has passed H.R. 2828, Cal-Fed, marking the end of a decade-long Congressional effort to complete this critical water program for the state of California. Having now passed both chambers of Congress, Cal-Fed was sent to President Bush, who was expected to sign the bill into law.

"The days of no new water storage for California are over," said Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA). "Today we finished a decade of hard work and established a path to bring new water storage projects online for the first time in 30 years. This legislation represents a paradigm shift in our policy by making water storage the lynchpin of the entire Cal-Fed program. The success of Cal-Fed depends upon expanded and better-managed storage, and this bill establishes a framework around that very fact."

The Cal-Fed bill includes $90 million for pre-authorized levees and levee stability projects; more than $180 million for pre-authorized water quality improvement projects throughout California, including drinking water; and $90 million for Fish and Wildlife enhancements. It also establishes a "trigger" mechanism for the implementation of storage projects. Once a project feasibility study is completed, the Congress must authorize the project. If it does not, the Secretary of the Interior must declare an "imbalance" in the Cal-Fed program and prescribe what must be done to achieve balance.

In addition, Pombo has won the guarantee of Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, that necessary funding will be secured to complete storage feasibility studies as soon as possible.

"Ample storage is critical to every sound water policy in the United States," Senator Domenici said. "California has clearly fallen behind in this regard, which is why I have committed to work on Chairman Pombo's behalf to fund the feasibility studies necessary to increase water storage in his state."

"By moving from an endless state of planning and paralysis by analysis into the stages of implementation, this legislation will finally deliver the resources we need for our economy and our environment," Pombo continued. "We will enhance Delta water quality, improve delivery, and secure future supplies of water - the lifeblood of California's agricultural economy."

According to the California Farm Water Coalition, the Golden States' agricultural exports are valued at nearly $7 billion. Each $1 billion in agricultural exports creates 27,000 jobs. That is 8.9 percent of all the jobs in the state. Additional storage gives the state more flexibility and financial relief in times of draught. Without increased storage, rate payers will continue to be subject to price spikes during times of shortage. For example, water rates in the Contra Costa water district increased by an average of 22% a year during the draught period between 1987 and 1992.

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