Water Groups Urge Passage of Stimulus Package

The American Public Works Association has urged the 111th Congress and President Barack Obama to launch a multi-billion-dollar economic recovery package that focuses federal investment in ready-to-go infrastructure projects.

By Patrick Crow, Washington Correspondent

The American Public Works Association has urged the 111th Congress and President Barack Obama to launch a multi-billion-dollar economic recovery package that focuses federal investment in ready-to-go infrastructure projects.

APWA President Noel Thompson said a survey of the association’s membership has identified more than 3,600 projects, totaling more than $15 billion in value, which are ready to go within 90 days but presently lack funding to proceed. He said funding these projects would generate 532,794 jobs.

The projects included storm drain pipe realignments, pumping station improvements, sewer line replacements, treatment plant upgrades, water valve replacement, and an array of road improvements.

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and other drinking water groups have urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to include at least $10 billion in drinking water funds in the economic stimulus bill. They also said that if states disburse the funds, they should be required to earmark 30% for ready-to-go projects by the largest drinking water systems.

“Over the past several months, AMWA has collected and documented numerous examples of ‘ready-to-go’ drinking water infrastructure projects from our member utilities,” said AMWA Executive Director Diane VanDe Hei. “But as we continued to collect information on more and more projects, it became clear that a significant increase in funding was warranted to create the most jobs and perform important upgrades to the nation’s drinking water infrastructure in metropolitan areas, where it is needed most.”

In a December 2008 letter to Obama, the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) said an economic stimulus package should contain funding for “shovel-ready” projects to expand supplies of fresh water, including ground water.

NGWA Executive Director Kevin McCray said, “In 2003, 36 state water managers told the U.S. Government Accountability Office that they anticipated local, regional, or statewide fresh water shortages over the next 10 years under normal conditions. Population growth, changing development patterns, and projected climate change will only compound the challenge.”

Obama Nominees

Obama’s nominee to be Environmental Protection Agency administrator was Lisa Jackson, former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Jackson said challenges facing the bureau include maintaining water quality in rivers, streams and lakes. She also cited climate change, threats to communities, air pollution, toxic chemicals, redevelopment and waste site cleanup issues, and environmental justice.

Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, was nominated to be energy secretary. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist directed research into renewable technologies and energy efficiency at the lab.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) was nominated to be secretary of the interior. In his acceptance statement, Salazar said his goals included “restoring our nation’s rivers and working to resolve our water supply challenges.”

Nancy Sutley, deputy mayor of Los Angeles for energy and environment, will head the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Carol Browner, who headed EPA for eight years during the Clinton administration, will be an assistant to the president for energy and climate change.

The American Water Works Association said Obama’s “green dream team” appointments suggest that the new administration is serious about climate change and other environmental issues.

Tom Curtis, AWWA deputy executive director, noted that during Jackson’s tenure at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, she oversaw implementation of a statewide chemical security program that was considered the toughest in the nation.

Curtis said, “The federal chemical security program is up for review in the coming Congress and the ability to use chlorine gas as a drinking water disinfectant will be a prominent issue in the coming debate.”

In other Washington news:

– EPA said a new general permit would reduce releases of 26 types of discharges from 61,000 U.S.-flagged and 8,000 foreign ships operating in U.S. waters. The permit covers non-recreational vessels of 79 feet or longer but excludes fishing vessels unless they discharge ballast water.

– EPA’s Office of Water and Office of Air and Radiation have agreed to cooperate on efforts to promote energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at drinking water and wastewater treatment plants. WW

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