- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The House on Thursday approved $19.4 billion to help states and local communities upgrade crumbling wastewater facilities, deal with sewage overflow and fight pollution in the Great Lakes.

The 317-101 vote reflected broad recognition that the nation is decades, and billions of dollars, behind in improving its aging water treatment infrastructure.

“We’re not investing enough in our wastewater infrastructure to ensure that we will continue to keep our water clean,” said Rep. John Boozman of Arkansas, top Republican on the Transportation water resources and environment subcommittee.

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The legislation authorizes $13.8 billion in federal grants over five years, starting in October, for the Clean Water State Revolving Funds, which provide low-interest loans and subsidies to communities for wastewater infrastructure. But the money won’t go out until congressional appropriations committees approve it each year as part of the annual federal budgets.

The bill also includes $2.5 billion over five years for sewer overflow control grants. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., said that every day more than 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of municipal sewage find their way into local water systems.

The measure comes on top of $5.6 billion in grants and loans designated for clean water projects in the $787 billion economic stimulus plan. Combining the various federal programs, said Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., “we can make a serious dent in the unemployment numbers.”

The bill must still be considered by the Senate.

Congress has not passed a water quality authorization bill since 1994. The failure to pass authorization bills is cited as one reason for the proliferation of earmarks _ special projects, often not authorized, that lawmakers attach to appropriation bills.

The one point of contention was a Republican attempt to strip from the legislation a provision, based on the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, that requires payment of locally prevailing wages for federally funded contracts.

An amendment by Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., to take out the Davis-Bacon provision was defeated, 284-140.


The bill is H.R. 1262

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