A significant amount of grant and loan funding is once again proposed for high-priority projects in 2017 to protect the health of Washington’s lakes, rivers, streams and marine waters.
The Department of Ecology’s Water Quality Program proposes that $137 million be directed toward 103 projects across the state for clean water infrastructure projects. The list of projects is available for public review and comment online.
“Our grant and loan program is a steadfast source of financial assistance to local communities, helping them make investments that last well into the future to protect water quality,” said Heather Bartlett, manager of Ecology’s Water Quality Program. “We financially support communities that might not otherwise be able to afford these projects and create jobs at the same time. We are fixing wastewater systems, preventing nonpoint sources of pollution, and addressing stormwater pollution problems that threaten our waters.”
Most of the funding -- $128 million -- is proposed for wastewater and stormwater infrastructure projects. Examples include upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, getting homes off failing septic systems and construction of projects that capture and contain stormwater.
Infrastructure spending not only protects the environment, it creates jobs. State financial managers calculate that 11 jobs are created in Washington for every $1 million spent on infrastructure. Using this calculation, the funding will support more than 1,400 jobs, with one-third of them as construction jobs.
Twenty-six wastewater treatment plants are tagged to receive approximately $94 million for facility projects. Eight of these projects are in communities that qualify for financial hardship status. They would receive forgivable principal loans (loans that do not need to be paid back), and loans with interest rates as low as 0.1 percent. The hardship communities are:
- Dryden and Peshastin (a combined project)
- Oak Harbor
- Sequim - two projects
- King County - two projects for Valley View Sewer District
Ecology determined that these hardship projects were also eligible for more than $10 million in Centennial Program grants, however not enough Centennial Program funding is available. Ecology is committed to providing these projects with Centennial Program grant funding during the next funding cycle, contingent on a legislative appropriation.
Fifty-nine projects would split $33 million from the Stormwater Financial Assistance Program to focus on reducing stormwater pollution. Stormwater funding comes from a combination of state bond and hazardous substance tax dollars. A few of the highest-priority stormwater projects include:
- Clarkston is slated to receive a $460,000 grant to install stormwater improvements that will retain and infiltrate stormwater using low-impact development techniques.
- Kirkland is set to get a $2.5 million grant to provide water quality treatment, flow control, and infiltration for approximately 48.5 acres of single-family residential and right-of-way area in the northeast corner of the Totem Lake Basin.
Sixteen of the projects would receive about $5 million in grants and loans to address nonpoint pollution that comes from widespread, hard-to-trace activities. Some examples of these projects are:
- Skagit County Public Utility District No. 1 would receive $1.6 million to purchase and retain forested land above Gilligan Creek to protect a source of public drinking water. The project will reduce risks of sediment delivery, chemical pollution, temperature impacts, and landslides to the stream.
- The Nooksack Indian Tribe would receive $139,000 to restore 51 acres of forest along the South Fork Nooksack River. Mature trees will shade and cool the river, help filter pollution, and create large woody debris for salmon habitat and natural stream function.
- Foster Creek Conservation District in Douglas County would receive a $250,000 grant to provide assistance to local dry land wheat, canola and grain producers helping them to move from conventional tillage methods to direct-seed/no-till systems. The project is designed to improve the water quality in local streams and tributaries by significantly reducing agricultural sediment erosion.
Another 24 pollution-control projects qualified for grants as well, but Ecology was unable to propose grant funding due to a lack of Centennial Grant Program funding.
Ecology invites public comments on the proposed funding list through 5 p.m. on Feb. 21. Ecology is holding a public meeting on the proposed projects at 1 p.m. on Feb. 5 at the Pierce County Library, Processing and Administrative Center, 3005 112th Street East, Tacoma, WA, 98446.
Maps, project descriptions and proposed funding amounts can be found online. The proposed funding is contingent on a final state 2016 Supplemental Budget and federal grants. Spending could begin as early as July 1, 2016.
To submit comments, email Daniel Thompson at email@example.com.