On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1.2 trillion measure characterized as the largest long-term investment in infrastructure in a century. Idaho’s congressional delegation was split on the vote, with Senators Crapo and Risch supporting the bill and Representatives Simpson and Fulcher opposing.
While many of the programs established by the legislation will take time to arrive in Idaho, billions of dollars will flow to Idaho providing needed investment in clean drinking water ($355 million), roads and bridges ($2.25 billion), public transportation ($192 million), Electric Vehicle charging ($30 million), broadband connectivity ($100 million), and wildfire prevention ($24 million). In addition to these big-ticket items that have dominated the headlines, hundreds of other provisions will create jobs and help Idaho prepare for the reality of climate change.
Additional funds will be available through competitive grant processes and include:
- $3.5 billion to help weatherize lower-income households, saving energy and reducing the burden of soaring energy bills. In 2009, stimulus funds that went toward energy efficiency projects for federal buildings and lower-income households had some of the highest rates of return, generating thousands of jobs, conserving energy, and helping control energy costs.
- $1 billion to replace culverts to improve fish passage for threatened and endangered species. Many culverts across Idaho are undersized or poorly constructed, which can block fish from reaching potential habitats. With salmon and steelhead populations experiencing historic lows across Idaho and the Northwest, these funds will help reconnect and improve habitat.
- $350 million for state and local governments to construct wildlife crossings, that protect drivers and wildlife. Collisions with wildlife cause an estimated $8 billion impact to humans in the US, not to mention the corresponding effects on wildlife, which is harder to quantify. Overpasses or underpasses help protect wildlife migration corridors by promoting the genetic diversity between wildlife populations and improving long-term conservation for species.
$2.5 billion for power transmission lines. As more renewable energy comes online in Idaho and across the Northwest, and as the market for Electric Vehicles grows, ensuring the adequacy of transmission lines to deliver power is a key priority.
- $100 million to support collaborative forest management efforts. Idaho has received funding for three large-scale forest collaborative projects on the Panhandle, Payette, and Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests to improve fish and wildlife habitat, reduce fire risk and restore water quality. An infusion of new funding could help other areas of the state as well. In addition, $500 million will support community wildfire programs designed to keep our homes and communities safe from the threat of wildfire.
Some of the $355 million in clean water funding will help Idaho address the maintenance backlog for drinking water and wastewater systems. As ICL has reported, 75% of Idaho’s wastewater plants fail to meet federal standards. Last year, ICL engaged with a coalition of 46 cities, 9 businesses, and 30 organizations and utilities from across the state, calling on Congress to fund programs that support clean water infrastructure.
As we collectively noted in our letter to Idaho’s congressional delegation, “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.”
We’ll be working with these and other partners as we support the implementation of the Infrastructure Bill during the 5-year timeframe that that funding will be available. We’ll work to ensure the funds are directed to areas of highest need and deliver on the promise to create jobs, promote clean energy, and protect clean water.