Biden’s budget would increase funding for Great Lakes and water infrastructure
Great Lakes advocates see President Biden’s budget and employment plan as an opportunity to increase funding for restoration projects and obsolete water infrastructure in the region. But the president’s proposals face significant hurdles from Republicans and some moderate Democrats over plans to raise taxes and spending.
Biden’s $ 6 trillion budget would set aside $ 3.6 billion to upgrade water infrastructure across the country for public water supplies, schools and homes. State revolving loan funds that help communities repair drinking water and sanitation systems would see funding increase by $ 464 million.
The budget would also increase funding for a federal Great Lakes remediation program by $ 10 million, from $ 330 million to $ 340 million. Biden’s proposal would also fund the design and build preparation of an $ 831 million plan to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Invasive fish threaten the $ 7 billion Great Lakes fishing industry and the $ 16 billion boating industry.
“We have a historic opportunity before us, and it is important that we seize the opportunity to protect the drinking water, health, jobs and quality of life of millions of people in the Great Lakes region and across the country, ”said Laura Rubin, director. of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.
In a conference call with reporters Thursday, Rubin said the budget and the jobs plan could be a game-changer to protect the Great Lakes and fight climate change.
Biden’s jobs plan would invest $ 2 trillion in infrastructure that would provide $ 111 billion to treat water supply systems, replace lead service lines, and deal with so-called chemicals forever known as name of PFAS. The budget includes approximately $ 75 million to help accelerate research that would guide efforts to establish standards for chemicals in drinking water.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the US Senate have come up with their own $ 928 billion infrastructure plan. House Republicans in the United States have proposed a $ 400 billion infrastructure bill, but it would not include investments in water or broadband infrastructure. Republicans have backed down from Biden’s proposals to raise corporate taxes to pay for infrastructure investments.
Chad Lord, policy director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes coalition, noted that all of the proposals represent significantly more funding for infrastructure than what is currently allocated.
“The need is there,” Lord said. “And the current rate of federal investment is simply not keeping up with the scale of the threat and meeting the needs of communities.”
Eight Great Lakes states, including Wisconsin, need more than $ 188 billion over the next two decades to look after drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, Lord said.
The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that Wisconsin will need $ 8.6 billion to look after drinking water systems over the next 20 years, while $ 6.3 billion will be needed to repair them. sanitation systems that have been under more stress due to climate change.
Many of these systems still carry potable water and wastewater through lead service lines. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are approximately 6 to 10 million lead lines nationwide. In Wisconsin, water utilities have already identified more than 176,000 state-owned lead service lines and more than 148,000 private lead lines. The city of Milwaukee alone has over 70,000 lead service lines in need of replacement.
Gov. Tony Evers and Democratic Wisconsin lawmakers backed a $ 40 million effort to help replace lead lines, but Republicans blocked those plans.
Representative Tony Kurtz, R-Wonewoc, said on Wednesday that federal funding could be used to address major service lines at a meeting of the state budget drafting committee. But, Senator LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, said the state must step in. She noted that lead exposure is harmful to human health and has been linked to developmental and behavioral problems in children.
“We have to do our part to make sure our children are safe,” Johnson said.
Great Lakes citizen advocacy groups stress that state and local governments cannot do it alone.
“If we are to solve this problem (we) need significant investment from the federal government to help,” said Brian Smith, associate executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment in New York City.
The Biden administration is proposing to invest billions more in federal agencies to tackle climate change and other environmental challenges. The EPA would see its budget increase by more than 20% to $ 11.2 billion after the Trump administration repeatedly threatened to cut the agency significantly. As part of the budget proposal, the EPA would also set aside $ 936 million in programs to create jobs, clean up pollution and address racial disparities between communities that have been disproportionately affected by the change. climate.