WRRDA Provisions Benefitting Hawai‘i
The following provisions in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), enacted in May 2014, will benefit Hawaii:
Streamlining small harbor project approval and dedicating funds for Hawaii: Senator Schatz supported this provision which is a major overhaul of how port and harbor projects can be built in Hawaii. The new law will allow small projects to avoid a cumbersome approval process in which they had to compete for funding with much bigger ports. Under the agreement, small, remote and subsistence harbors in Hawaii, Alaska, and the U.S. territories can receive dedicated funding of up to $15 million per project.
Improving the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF): WRRDA makes several important changes to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s CWSRF program. The bill allows more flexible loan terms, including lower interest rates and principle forgiveness, in communities that have difficulty raising revenue for projects. It also extends the repayment period from 20 years to 30 years and expands eligible uses to include implementation of watershed plans, water conservation, stormwater recapture, and technical assistance to small and medium treatment works. Since 1988, the Hawaii Department of Health has used funding from the Clean Water and Drinking Water SRF Programs to issue over $675 million in low interest loans to Hawaii’s four counties to construct high priority drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems. These loans will help the counties save millions of dollars in interest costs for projects like: improvements to the Lahaina wastewater pumping station; construction of sewers on Hawaii Island to allow closure of cesspools; and energy efficiency improvements at the Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plant.
New funding instrument for water infrastructure projects: The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) establishes a five-year pilot program that will allow the Corp of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to provide loans and loan guarantees for flood control, water supply, and wastewater infrastructure projects. WIFIA will augment rather than compete with the State Revolving Fund and will only fund projects which do not receive SRF funding. It will also include a set-aside for rural and small community projects for areas under 25,000 in population and allow some funding provided each year to finance more than 49 percent of a project’s total cost.
Expanding funds for ecosystem restoration, navigation, and flood control projects: This bill increases authorization and funding for small ecosystem restoration, navigation, and flood control projects. It will also now allow projects of up to $10 million without requiring an onerous Congressional approval process. Expanded funding will support projects like the Kuliouou stream project, which helps provide flood control and protects the Maunalua Bay watershed.Preparing for extreme weather: As a strong proponent for preparing our infrastructure to withstand the effects of climate change, Senator Schatz supported a provision in WRRDA that requires the National Academy of Sciences to begin a comprehensive evaluation of how to improve water infrastructure to better respond to extreme weather and to mitigate risk associated with these disasters. The provision also calls on the Corps of Engineers to use resilient construction techniques when building new water infrastructure.