Page 28

SOURCE - Winter 2016

MANAGER’S CORNER where possible, accelerate the pace to avoid catastrophic failures such as residents had seen on national media. 3) A Water Capacity Fee Study—Because residents were concerned that wa-ter system improvements were aimed at growth and new development would not be paying its fair share, the city authorized a fee study to assess the adequacy of fees and charges and ensure fair distribution of costs. 4) Reducing Rates—The city identified strategies already underway to re-duce program costs and spread these over five years instead of four and committed to pursuing additional funding opportunities includ-ing State Revolving Funds. 5) Affordability and Equity. The staff recommended initial lower month-ly costs for the lowest water users and committed to a rate schedule based on use. Costs would be added more slowly than in the previous-ly approved plan, and an assistance program would help those with demonstrated need. Step 8: Continue Communication (Ongoing). On February 26, 2015, the City Council authorized the Proposition 218 process and subsequently ap-proved the revised rate structure. A year after the forums ended, the council approved $158 million to develop and construct the 80 MGD water treatment facility, the corner-stone of the Recharge Fresno infrastructure improvement, scheduled for a 2018 completion, plus additional projects already underway. Because residents need access to information on project status and milestones and the importance of securing Fresno’s water future more than ever, outreach and public participation continues to claim a critical seat at the planning table. S 28 SOURCE winter 2016 WIFIA WIFIA, Continued from page 23 making local funds stretch further and accelerating water infrastructure improvements. Because like TIFIA, WIFIA is strictly a loan program, in the long run, it promised to be budget neutral, and in addition, both programs allow leveraging of federal dollars appropriated based on the credit risk of loan recipients. In TIFIA, every dollar appropriated by Congress results in $10 being loaned out. The TIFIA program’s ability to leverage additional sources of investment, including tax-exempt bonds, has been fundamental to its success: a federal in-vestment of less than $2 billion has backed more than $19 billion in low-cost TIFIA loans and spurred $72 billion in surface transportation improvements nationwide. The water sector is even more creditworthy. The historical default rate of water utilities is 0.04 percent, and almost all of those in default work their way out in a couple of years. Therefore, the potential leverage rate for WIFIA, by some estimates, has been up to 33:1 ($33 dollars loaned out for a dollar ap-propriated). The leverage rate will likely be evaluated for each project applying. The Door Opens When Congress began deliberations on a long-term surface transportation bill, AWWA and the informal water coalition saw an opportunity. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on En-vironment & Public Works, had shepherded the original WIFIA legislation through the Senate and wasn’t happy with the ban on tax-free financing. She led efforts to include the WIFIA correction in the Senate’s version of the trans-portation bill. U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, Chair of the Subcommittee on Wa-ter Resources and Environment, who had championed the WIFIA legislation in the House of Representatives, also wanted the correction. While the House version of the bill did not contain the WIFIA fix (because of concerns that WI-FIA might be ruled non-germane to the House text) he kept pushing. When a House-Senate conference convened to produce a compromise bill, Rep. Gibbs let it be known that fixing WIFIA was one of his priorities. Going into the 2015 Thanksgiving holidays, WIFIA’s fate remained in limbo. AWWA grassroots members were diligent in calling, e-mailing and meeting with their members of Congress serving on the conference commit-tee. One eleventh hour wrinkle appeared when a private concern lobbying Capitol Hill argued that WIFIA should be used primarily to support private investment in water systems. On November 30, 2015, the House-Senate conference produced a single transportation bill that included the WIFIA correction, and on December 2015, the White House press office announced that President Obama would sign the legislation. The House approved the bill 359-65 the afternoon of December 3, 2015, and the Senate approved it by a vote of 83-16. As debate began, Rep. Gibbs went to the floor of the full House to reiterate the need to correct WIFIA. Now that WIFIA is Fixed WIFIA was authorized to receive $20 million in fiscal year 2015, $25 mil-lion in 2016, $35 million in 2017, $45 million in 2018, and $50 million in 2019, but so far Congress has only appropriated $2.2 million for USEPA to set up the program, and no money has been appropriated for WIFIA to make actual loans. Appropriators maintain they want to be sure that the agency is ready to implement the program, but based on our discussions, the EPA staff appears to be well down the road to implementation. AWWA and oth-ers have been talking to Congress about this, but the overall federal budget debate has become partisan and contentious. AWWA’s Water Utility Council (WUC) and government affairs staff have been impressed and gratified with the tremendous support and hard work AWWA members have shown in the WIFIA campaign. AWWA members have full-time jobs and family lives, and consequently, the amount of time and ener-gy they showed in advocating for WIFIA and its correction has been amazing. S


SOURCE - Winter 2016
To see the actual publication please follow the link above