New Orleans

Money flows slowly to La. water system upgrades – New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana 2021-12-06 10:40:47 –

When lawmakers secure $ 300 million June Federal Pandemic Assistance To help upgrade Louisiana’s outdated water and sewerage system, they talked about the urgent need for improvement and maintenance. However, it took longer than expected for the dollar to split.

Extratropical cyclones temporarily disrupt the application process, and a flood of interest from the local water and sewerage system means it will take longer than expected to sift money demands. In addition, federal restrictions on cash control have added complexity.

Last week, the first set of 29 projects totaling $ 23 million was approved by two legislative committees overseeing funding, the Water Sector Commission and the Senate Budget Commission.

The list includes $ 1.4 million for the Janeret water system, $ 2.5 million for the Kinder sewer system, $ 2.1 million for the Turkey Creek water system, $ 1.8 million for the West Monroe sewer system, and $ 2.5 million for the Westlake sewer system. I am.

Some of the municipalities still need to complete the paperwork, but the dollar should soon begin to flow into some of those projects.

Meanwhile, a broader list of the remaining $ 277 million projects could win the passage by late January if lawmakers can agree on which applicants should raise money.

“It’s frustrating to take this long, but it’s encouraging to have at least some dollars. But we also do it right and earn as much dollars as possible. I want to make sure that, “said Jerome Zelinge, Chairman of the House Expenditure Committee.

Houma Republican Zeringe is co-chair of a 10-member legislative water sector committee created to decide which community water and sewerage systems to share for $ 300 million. Another co-chair is Senator Mike Reese, a Republican in Reidsville.

“I don’t think we’ve achieved a huge amount of applications,” Reese said. “The needs are very big.”

Louisiana has approximately 1,300 water systems throughout the state. According to reports documenting the vulnerability, about half operate buildings that are more than 50 years old. In some rural areas, the system is at stake.

Governor John Bel Edwards’ management, running the application portal, scoring requests, and handling grant paperwork, explained $ 4 billion in identified repair and upgrade needs. But in 2018, the US Environmental Protection Agency made that number even higher.

The Edwards administration said it had received about 600 applications for grants of more than $ 1 billion from the water sector program. This is more than three times the amount of money available.

The initial list of $ 23 million approved for funding included projects that parliamentarians helped raise the state’s construction budget. However, Republican Speakers Page Cortez and Speaker Clay Schexnay have selected additional projects to subsidize the water and sewage system through a scoring process set up to review applications. He said he wanted that.

Standards set by the Edwards administration and supported by the Water Sector Commission are local to fix identified public health issues, integrate smaller systems, improve protection against bad weather, and assist in paying for work. Prioritize projects that are funded by.

In a political environment where so many projects are competing for a limited pool of funds, the scoring system may not be the only factor in determining which projects will obtain legislative approval. However, Reese and Zeringe said they expect the score to be an important driver.

“I think everyone believes that their project in their district is of paramount importance. A decision is needed and this scoring will help guide it,” Zeringue said. Mr. says.

Given these great needs, the Democratic Governor’s administration and the Republican legislature are hoping to add more funding to the water sector program at the 2022 regular meeting. They are aiming for $ 1.4 billion in unallocated federal coronavirus aid to help replenish the grant.

“At this point, there seems to be a universal consensus that this is a valuable use of these dollars and that at least the same amount ($ 300 million) should be put into the program. I advocate even more. I will. “

There is also money available Through a $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package It was recently passed by Congress. Republican Senator Bill Cassidy announced on Thursday that Louisiana will receive $ 101 million from the bill to improve its drinking water infrastructure during this budget year and will receive an additional $ each year until 2026.

Melinda Deslatte has covered the Associated Press’s Louisiana politics since 2000.

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