Engineers, contractors urge Congress to approve water funding measures

The American Society of Civil Engineers and the Associated General Contractors of America today called on the House of Representatives to pass the Water Quality Financing Act of 2007. The legislation would provide $14 billion for the Clean Water Act State Revolving Loan Fund program over four years, beginning with $2 billion in fiscal year 2008...

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 9, 2007 -- The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) today called on the House of Representatives to pass the Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 (H.R. 720). The legislation would provide $14 billion for the Clean Water Act State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF) program over four years, beginning with $2 billion in fiscal year 2008. The money would be used to recapitalize the CWSRF, which has suffered from declining federal investments in recent years.

"Clean drinking and wastewater systems are some of the greatest advances in improving public health," said ASCE President William F. Marcuson, Ph.D., P.E., Hon.M.ASCE. "As a result, protecting America's drinking and wastewater systems is vital to the health, safety and welfare of the public, and we commend Chairman Oberstar for his leadership on this critical national issue."

Passage of the Water Quality Financing Act is a critical part of the Action Plan ASCE developed for the 110th Congress, which was released earlier this week. The Plan identifies 11 legislative actions Congress should take to raise the grades for America's infrastructure. In its 2005 Report Card for America's Infrastructure, ASCE gave the nation's aging wastewater treatment plants a grade of D-, down from a grade of D in 2001.

"Today we urge the U.S. House of Representatives to pass H.R. 720, which reauthorizes the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF) program at a very conservative level of $14 billion over the next four years. Opposition to this legislation is a disappointing overreaction to a measure that is simply the first step toward a lasting legacy of clean and safe water for all Americans," said Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) report a funding gap of $300 billion to $500 billion that is needed over the next 20 years to address wastewater collection and treatment needs nationwide.

In addition to the investment called for in H.R. 720, AGC supports creation of a long-term, sustainable, off-budget source of funding for clean water by creating a dedicated trust fund to finance the construction and maintenance of wastewater facilities. Recent polling shows that an overwhelming majority - 86 percent of Americans - would support the creation of such a trust fund.

"This is an extremely popular program that protects public health and environment, if Congress continues to under fund this critical infrastructure it irresponsibly shifts the burden to the next generation," added Sandherr.

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