Senator Mike Crapo
Hearing on the Water Investment Act of 2002 (S. 1961)
February 26 & 28, 2002
Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling together this hearing. To our witnesses here today and on Thursday, I look forward to your insights on S. 1961, the Water Investment Act.
As you know, when I joined this committee as Chairman of the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water Subcommittee, then-Chairman, the late Senator John Chafee and I began a long process of assessing the performance of our water and wastewater infrastructure statutes and exploring needed improvements to address outstanding problems. This process continued under his successor as Chairman, Senator Smith. Over the past three years, I have convened many hearings and meetings with the stakeholders and agency officials to debate how to address the problems of communities with unmet water and wastewater infrastructure needs. With the able partnership of Chairman Jeffords and Senator Graham, I am pleased that we have been able to culminate this work into S. 1961.
Although we are likely to hear testimony on other bills pending before the committee, I would like to confine my comments to S. 1961. This legislation has several important provisions and goals including:
• modernizing state water pollution control revolving programs and ensuring the allocation of funds reflects public health and water quality needs
• streamlining state assistance programs for maximum efficient use of funds by states and communities
• assisting disadvantaged communities and enhancing the capacity of smaller systems to better serve the public
• ensuring the enhanced federal contributions to state assistance programs is matched by appropriate accountability by those who receive funding
These are strong guiding principles and ones that the committee should remember as we advance this proposal through the legislative process.
The needs of our nation's water and wastewater infrastructure systems are enormous. Because federal regulations drive the majority of costs for communities, it is appropriate for us to recognize there is a federal interest to help utilities and the public address their needs. To help provide the federal share, this bill authorizes a bold investment of $35 billion over five years to reinvigorate state revolving funds with the goal that these funds will be self-sustaining at the end of the investment period.
The bill also aims to increase flexibility for states in managing their assistance programs, explore avenues to reduce costs, and target resources to those most in need. It also embodies my commitment to assist rural areas and our most distressed communities with additional resources to help them serve the public.
Although it is tempting to turn this legislation into a vehicle for individual proposals and controversial concepts, S. 1961 represents the collaboration and hard work of many who recognize the goal of assisting communities should be our guiding principle. If this important bill is to become law, controversial items are best put aside for another time. Too many communities are waiting for the assistance this bill will provide to see the legislation brought down by difficult proposals.
With that, l want to once again welcome our witnesses for all our panels. Your comments have been helpful throughout this process and I look forward to your insights on S. 1961.