A bipartisan bill to address sewage and drinking water issues in underserved Delaware communities was signed into law by Governor John Carney on Thursday after six years of preparation.
House Bill 200, the Clean Water for Delaware Act, creates a framework and funding source that lawmakers say will improve the quality of Delaware’s water supply and waterways.
The fund includes $ 50 million from state funds allocated by the Bonds Act and an additional $ 30 million from federal grants.
The $ 50 million originally planned in Carney’s FY2022 budget includes $ 22.5 million for drinking water, $ 22.5 million for water pollution control, and $ 5 million. dollars for resource conservation and development.
The bill was originally introduced in 2019, but was scrapped over fears that its high price would put too much of a strain on the state budget amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The four-page bill addresses water problems of all kinds, from aging water infrastructure to coastal flooding.
Responsible for implementing the far-reaching imperatives of the legislation, a new seven-member committee made up of the secretaries of the departments of natural resources and environmental control; Health and social services; Finance; Agriculture and transport; as well as the two co-chairs of the draft law committee on the obligations of the General Assembly.
The trust is designed in such a way that it doesn’t run out of funds or need new legislation to replenish its war chest. The money in the Clean Water Trust account will be a revolving fund, replenished year after year by interest on project loans.
The committee will publish an annual report detailing how the funds are used for wastewater, stormwater and drinking water infrastructure, beach preservation and waterway management.
Lawmakers say the Clean Water Trust will:
- Improving flood resistance and drainage in our most flood-prone communities
- Repair faulty sewer lines and septic tanks
- Improve the quality of drinking water and expand access to drinking water
- Eliminate decades-old pollution from our waterways
- Increase conservation funding for the Delaware farming community
- Issue low-interest loans and grants to low-income and underserved communities
Co-sponsor Senator Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, said the HB 200 “will protect Delaware’s rich natural heritage for future generations of Delawarens.”
Lopez stressed the importance of bipartisanship in drafting legislation. âWhen it comes to feeding people, dressing people, housing people and providing them with clean water, these are not partisan issues. These are our problems. These are Delaware problems, âLopez said.
House Majority Leader Representative Valerie Longhurst of the City of D-Delaware called access to clean water a “right, not a privilege.” She was the main sponsor of Bill.
âToday we say Delaware cares about our water,â Longhurst said. “We have $ 80 million to clean up our water – from New Castle with their development to Kent with their agriculture, up to Sussex with the beaches.”
DNREC secretary Shawn Garvin said his agency has been working to identify areas in greatest need of drinking water investment since 2018.
The newly formed clean water committee will create a priority list for the trust ranked in order of importance. The list will be based on recommendations from the legislature, experts from relevant cabinet agencies, the Water Infrastructure Advisory Council, and county and municipal governments. Members of the public will be able to make their own recommendations by connecting with their state’s lawmakers.
Carney said the main problem that has held back large investments in drinking water over the past 30 years was the lack of available funds.
âWe’re incredibly lucky to have two things this year,â he said. One is House Bill 200 and the other is the millions included in the one-year bond bill with an unexpected surplus of $ 1 billion.
The Delaware Nature Society was one of the bill’s biggest advocates. The organization created an advocacy group called Clean Water Delaware, which led early childhood legislation when it was signed Thursday.
âWater is an essential part of all living things on this planet, but in Delaware 90% of our waterways are polluted with inherited toxins and excess nutrients, while 40% of Delawarens report that they experience flooding at some point every year, âthe Nature Society says on its website.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, federal funding for water infrastructure projects has declined 75% since 1977. Officials estimate Delaware has a backlog of $ 700 million in needed investments in drinking water.