Suzanne Julian is UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration. She is currently working with the STEP leadership team in Pamlico County as part of the Carolina Economic Revitalization Corps program.
A proposed law that affects water and wastewater infrastructure funding sits before Governor Purdue this week. The NC House unanimously passed House Bill 1744, titled Modify Water Funding Priorities, on July 8th. The bill, as you might have gathered from its name, proposes several changes to the “common criteria” used to used in making funding decisions about water and wastewater infrastructure loans and grants.
The Division of Water Quality and the Division of Environmental Health within NC DENR operate several loan and grant programs. These funding programs use a set of “common criteria” and a prioritization system to evaluate loan applications for the Emergency Loan Program and the State Revolving Loan Fund (although the common criteria do not apply to the similarly-named but separate State Revolving Fund program). The common criteria also apply to some of the North Carolina Rural Center’s grant programs. The new criteria proposed by House Bill 1744 will, among other things:
- Establish that fixing leaking waterlines is a priority both for water quality and water quantity purposes.
- Add asset management planning, regionalization, state water supply planning, and drought management to the list of common criteria for priority in funding decisions.
- Establish a sliding scale to determine the priority given to projects that exceed the high-unit-cost threshold.
- Allow projects for which regionalization is not feasible to avoid penalization for not including regionalization.
The full text and history of the bill is available here.
Several of these proposed modifications come from recommendations created by the State Water Infrastructure Commission (SWIC). SWIC was charged in 2005 with submitting annual reports and recommendations on water infrastructure issues to the General Assembly. Some of their recommendations are reflected in the funding modifications set out in H 1744, including their recommendations regarding regionalization and high-unit-cost thresholds. More information on the SWI, including links to their reports, is available on the School of Government’s Water Wiki (which is itself a very useful resource!).
I’m certainly not an expert on all of the political implications of this legislation, but I imagine that these funding-criteria changes will be received as good news by many local governments. The changes retain the incentives to regionalize and create partnerships with other local governments where appropriate, but also make allowances for situations in which regionalization isn’t a feasible option.
Can’t get enough of the nitty-gritty details of water/wastewater infrastructure funding? Me either. If you’re interested in finding out more, the “Legislative Study Commission on Water and Wastewater Infrastructure” 2010 report is available here.