Water Infrastructure Programs Get $11 Billion in Final FY20 Appropriations Bills

Water Infrastructure Programs Get $11 Billion in Final FY20 Appropriations Bills

December 17, 2019  | Jeff Davis

Key programs for water infrastructure development in multiple federal agencies received almost $11 billion in the final FY 2020 appropriations bills, continuing their significant funding increases in recent years.

Army Corps of Engineers.

Water navigation and flood control programs are handled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This “civil works” program of the Corps receives $7.65 billion in the final Energy and Water Development appropriations bill for 2020 (Division C of the second appropriations minibus package – joint explanatory statement here), which is $652 million above last year (+9.3 percent). This total is $2.8 billion above the Trump Administration’s budget request (+58 percent) because, no matter who is President, the Office of Management and Budget has a drastically different view of the importance of Corps water projects than does Congress.

The $26 million increase in the Investigations budget is to start six new studies that will eventually (probably) become future projects. The bill also directs that in the much larger ($2.68 billion) Construction account, six new projects be begun as well. The final bill continues to prioritize the Regional Dredge Demonstration Program funding line item to be used for deep draft navigation projects in the Gulf of Mexico between Louisiana and Alabama ($378 million) and also reduces the Inland Waterways Trust Fund share of the massive Chickamauga Lock replacement (normally 50 percent) to 35 percent in FY 2020 so not as to exhaust the IWTF completely.

We don’t yet have a dollar amount on how much of the Corps’ $7.65 billion will come from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, only that for the sixth consecutive year, the HMTF total will meet or exceed the target set in the 2014 water resources development law.

The following chart shows just how much the 2018 and 2019 budget deals have helped boost the Corps budget by opening the floodgates (ha!) and unleashing billions of dollars for additional non-defense appropriations.

Environmental Protection Agency.

Division D of the second minibus package is the Interior-Environment appropriations bill for FY 2020 (joint explanatory statement here) which includes funding for the water infrastructure programs of the EPA. Most of that money goes to for grants to captialize state revolving funds (SRFs) which then make low-interest loans to municipalities for drinking water and sewer/wastewater infrastructure under the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. These grants total $2.76 billion under the final bill, $93 million less than last year but more than $5o0 million above the 2017 level (the last year before the budget deals drastically increased total spending).

The bill also provides $55 million to carry out the new WIFIA loan program. $50 million is to run the program itself (with a total authorized loan volume of $11.5 billion in 2020) and another $5 million is set aside for the State Infrastructure Financing loan authority program.

The other 0.1 cent per gallon of federal gasoline and diesel fuel taxes that don’t go to into the Highway Trust Fund instead go into the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund to support EPA programs to clean up abandoned service stations. This program gets $91.9 million in 2020, the same as last year.

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