Associated Press Newswires
c) 2004. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Ohio Water and Sewer Improvement Projects to Get Federal Cash
By MALIA RULON
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - More than three dozen
Ohio cities and counties will get an estimated $25 million to upgrade crumbling
water and sewer systems through a long list of federal budget earmarks,
providing a patchwork solution to the nation's aging infrastructure problem. The
funds were included as set-asides in a massive spending bill that Congress
agreed to over the weekend.
But they come as money for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides
low-interest loans to communities to build or improve wastewater facilities, was
slashed from $1.3 billion to $1.1 billion.
"As you see the federal government programs decreasing, you're going to find
that municipalities and other groups are looking for specific funds through the
earmark process," said Adam Krantz, director of government affairs for the
Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies. "That's really an unfortunate
Earmarks are requests placed in the budget at the behest of lawmakers. They are
criticized as pork, but generally supported by members of Congress who say they
know best which programs should get funding.
The problem with earmarking money for water and sewer programs is that there is
no standard for determining who gets the money, meaning that the most needy
systems aren't always the ones who get the funding.
"This highlights the need for a national grant program," said William Schatz,
general counsel for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and president of
Schatz was pleased to see $350,000 included in the bill for the Doan Brook
watershed project that is attempting to get sewer overflow problems in the
Cleveland area under control. Still the money is only a fraction of the $100
million that's needed.
Funding for Ohio infrastructure ranged from $1.3 million to build a new waste
water treatment plant in the southwest Ohio village of Bloomingburg to $50,000
to connect the Pickaway Elementary School in Circleville, south of Columbus, to
its regional water and sewer district. The school was built in 1912 and still
uses well water.
AMSA advocates the creation of a national trust fund to help communities pay for
these upgrades. The fund would be similar to the highway trust fund that uses
gas taxes to pay for road and bridge repairs.
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, supports additional federal funds for loan and
grant programs that address infrastructure needs.
"Wastewater infrastructure isn't a popular issue but it has a big impact on
whether or not our lakes, river and streams are viable ecosystems," Voinovich
spokesman Scott Milburn said.