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Letter: Federal funding needed for water infrastructure

Federal funding needed for water infrastructure

I write in response to The News editorial regarding sewage overflows in Erie County and the need for New York State to financially assist our local governments in upgrading and repairing this vital infrastructure.

Water infrastructure has been a priority of the Assembly. Last year, we created a new $200 million grant program to help our cities, towns and villages repair and upgrade aging water infrastructure to help maintain clean drinking water and ensure the safe disposal of wastewater. To his credit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed adding an additional $100 million in this year’s budget, and both the Assembly and the Senate seek to increase this amount.

Even with this commitment by the state, our critical water infrastructure needs will not be met. New York’s estimated funding need for drinking water infrastructure is $39 billion over the next 20 years. The need is equally great for wastewater – an estimated $36 billion over the same time period, as one in every four wastewater treatment plants is already operating beyond its life expectancy. The state is not in a position to meet this financial need.

How did we get in this position? Beginning in 1980, the federal government began withdrawing from its commitments to help fund our critical infrastructure. This funding withdrawal can be seen in our leaking pipes and overflowing wastewater plants.

The core issue is that the federal Clean Water Act funding has been reduced by 70 percent, from $2.4 billion to $687 million.

Our federal government must recommit to helping our communities with these costs. Local governments and the state have taken measures to address water quality issues, but Congress should not get away with leaving us up the creek without a paddle.

Steve Englebright

Assembly Member

Chairman, Committee on Environmental Conservation