Senator Tim Kaine joined seventeen colleagues in pushing to boost investment in water infrastructure repairs. In a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, the Senators pressed for $70 million in 2016 funding for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). With the recent crisis in Flint, Michigan highlighting aging water infrastructure across the country, Kaine and other Senators are seeking this federal investment in an effort to preempt future crises of this magnitude.<
WIFIA is a recently-created program designed to provide low-cost loans to local governments that otherwise struggle with finding affordable financing options for replacing or upgrading water infrastructure. This financing is critical to fixing aging and crumbling water infrastructure and helping growing regions expand their water infrastructure systems to meet the demands of population growth. Because WIFIA funding is provided through loans, $70 million in funding for WIFIA would help to leverage approximately $700 million in financing for water infrastructure projects across the nation.
“The crisis in Flint, Michigan shows the potential consequences of systematic underinvestment in our nation’s infrastructure,” the Senators wrote. “While Flint is an emergency situation that deserves immediate attention and resources, it is one of many cities across the nation still dependent on lead pipes and century-old water systems.
“However, despite the clear need, current funding still only provides a fraction of the necessary upgrades and maintenance for our water infrastructure,” the Senators continued. For example, appropriations for clean water infrastructure have averaged less than $2 billion a year since 2000. WIFIA would augment current funding sources through lowering the cost of infrastructure investments and increase the availability of lower-cost capital for large projects. … With an extensive backlog of water infrastructure investment, it is time to leverage federal funds to make a lasting impact on our communities and on our public health.”
Joining Kaine in signing the letter were U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley, Barbara Boxer, Debbie Stabenow, Kirsten Gillibrand, Dianne Feinstein, Robert Casey, Ron Wyden, Tammy Baldwin, Brian Schatz, Bernie Sanders, Bob Menendez, Edward J. Markey, Dick Durbin, Richard Blumenthal, Gary Peters, Ben Cardin, and Charles E. Schumer.