BOISE — On June 18, a diverse coalition of Idaho cities, businesses and organizations called on Idaho’s congressional delegation to support efforts to reauthorize and fund important water quality programs that have provided millions of dollars to Idaho.

The letter was endorsed by 46 cities, 9 businesses, and 30 organizations and utilities representing water users, conservationists, agricultural interests, and water managers across the state.

 The coalition calls on Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, and Representatives Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher to support reauthorization and funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. These funds provide financing tools and direct support for municipalities and utilities to upgrade wastewater treatment and drinking water infrastructure which can reduce public health risks, modernize systems and improve water quality. 

“Congress should work with states to invest in job creation through existing and newly created programs to get Americans and Idahoans back to work. These investments can meet multiple goals including restoring our infrastructure, improving our public lands and waters, cleaning up our energy grid, and creating thousands of needed jobs,” the letter noted.

The coalition encourages funding both to address infrastructure and water quality issues, as well as to create opportunities for employment. With over 149,000 unemployment claims filed in Idaho since the onset of the pandemic, the programs could put thousands of Idahoans back to work.

The letter also highlights other federal programs, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s 319 grant program for water quality projects, the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSmart Program, which funds efficiency and infrastructure projects, and the USDA Rural Water and Waste Loan and Grant Program designed to support communities with a population less than 10,000.

“Water users throughout Idaho rely on programs like the 319 program and the WaterSMART program to improve efficiencies and improve water quality. These programs provide opportunities for collaborative efforts across stakeholder groups to achieve meaningful improvements. We applaud Idaho’s Congressional leaders who support these programs and recognize the value of these programs to Idaho,” said Paul Arrington, Executive Director of the Idaho Water Users Association.

Several bills are pending in Congress, including America’s Water Infrastructure Act S. 3591 and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act S. 3590, which would reauthorize and fund the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds that are administered in Idaho by the Department of Environmental Quality. The bipartisan measures, sponsored by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barasso (R-WY) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) were approved in May 2020 by the committee with broad support. In the House, a similar measure, the Water Quality Protection and Jobs Act of 2019 H.R. 1497 was introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter Defazio (D-OR) along with 57 co-sponsors.

“Together, we are committed to implementing projects in Idaho that create jobs, improve water quality, and restore our environment. We strongly encourage your support for increased funding for these programs. We stand ready to work with you to demonstrate the broad base of support these programs have garnered and their solid history of results and success in Idaho,” the letter concludes.