Public Hearing Provides Chance to Maximize Support to Disadvantaged Communities
The first influx of funding for water infrastructure from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act could help transform aging Texas water systems buckling under pressure from deepening drought, extreme heat, and continued population growth. The Texas Water Development Board, the stage agency charged with dispersing the $2.9 billion designated for Texas water infrastructure over the next five years, will hear public input for the first time on how it plans to spend the first round of the new federal funds this Wednesday, Aug. 10 at 10 a.m. CDT.
“From outbreaks of toxic algal blooms this summer to last year’s winter storm outages, it is clear Texas water systems — particularly those in rural and historically under-served areas — are not equipped to handle increased stresses due to climate change and population growth,” said Danielle Goshen, policy specialist at the National Wildlife Federation’s Texas Coast and Water Program. “Upgrading these systems presents a massive financial burden and bureaucratic hurdle that many Texas communities can not begin to take on. The new federal infrastructure funds could be a lifeline for the water systems that need attention most. The Texas Water Development Board needs to seize the opportunity and maximize the amount of grants, forgivable loans, and technical assistance made available to disadvantaged communities across the state.”
Specific adjustments the Board can make to fully capitalize on this opportunity include:
- Provide 100% project costs as grants or forgivable loans to the most disadvantaged communities that apply for funding.
- Use funding to prioritize outreach to disadvantaged communities who haven’t traditionally accessed funding from the Drinking and Clean Water State Revolving Funds.
- Better prioritize green infrastructure approaches that improve long-term resiliency, affordability, and quality-of-life for nearby residents.
Written comments are due Saturday, Aug. 20 and can be e-mailed to email@example.com. The public hearing is at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 10 at the Stephen F. Austin State Office Building, Room 172, in Austin, Texas. See the Board’s guidelines on public comments for further detail.