President Signs New Water Infrastructure Act
Friday, June 13, 2014
HR 3080 is the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013. The new law provides for a pilot program for the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) for water resource development projects. The Secretary of the Army (Secretary) will indentify at least 15 projects that are authorized for construction for coastal harbor improvement, channel improvement, inland navigation, flood damage reduction, or hurricane and storm damage reduction for the program. The program is designed to reduce the backlog of projects for the Army Corps of Engineers. The new law authorizes the Secretary to enter into agreements with the private partner for the design, financing, and/or construction of the project.
The new law contains the criteria for selecting a project, the payment requirements for the public owner to pay the private partner, and the technical assistance portions of the project for which the Secretary may assist the private partner. The new law also requires the Secretary to identify possible procedural requirements that would impede the use of a P3. The new law prohibits the Secretary from waiving the federal prevailing wage and labor laws, as well as “any other provision of Federal law” in implementing the P3 pilot program. The new law also provides that the 15 pilot projects must comply with all laws and regulations that the Secretary of the Army would have to follow if the Secretary were carrying out the project. A report on the program would be due to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works within three years of the enactment of the bill.
The new law also encourages private investment in water and wastewater infrastructure through an innovative pilot program for a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA), modeled after the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (TIFIA). Like TIFIA, WIFIA will use federal funding to leverage state and local funding and private investment in providing loans and loan guarantees to get projects completed. The new law provides that nothing in the WIFIA provisions shall supersede the applicability of other requirements in the federal laws and regulations. The Government Accountability Office must submit a report to Congress with a review of the program and any subsequent recommendations to improve the program no later than four years after the program is enacted. The new law also authorizes 34 new construction projects.
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