Needs outweigh cash in state's infrastructure fund

Source: Albany Times Union

Needs outweigh cash in state's infrastructure fund


Posted: February 11, 2019
Originally Published: February 7, 2019

ALBANY — While a multi-billion-dollar state program to fix aging drinking water and sewer pipes is working, the state should double the money it currently devotes to dealing with widespread problems, according to a study issued Thursday by a environmental lobbying group.

While praising the state's three-year-old, $2.5 billion program to fix such infrastructure, Environmental Advocates of New York said another $2.5 billion ought to be added. 

While state funding is substantial, Hayes said, it is dwarfed by the potential price tag of $80 billion or more to fix aging municipal water and sewer systems that serve millions of New Yorkers.

Out of the 22,000 miles of sewer pipes statewide, nearly a third are beyond their projected 60-year lifespans, according to the report. A quarter of more than 600 sewage treatment plants are beyond their projected useful life of 30 years.

Hayes said local governments facing upgrade projects have filed 884 applications seeking $1.4 billion since 2015. The state, however, was able to award about $500 million for 316 projects.

"New York is currently far from the level of annual funding needed to fix our pipes," according to the report. "With an estimated need for state investment of $80 billion over 20 years, the state would need to invest $4 billion each year to tackle our water infrastructure crisis."

Also Thursday, a nationwide coalition of environmental groups from states around the Great Lakes urged Congress to increase the amount of federal aid available to states to pay for such projects.

It is projected to cost nearly $180 billion over the next two decades to fix water and sewer systems in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, according to the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

In New York, the group includes the Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the National Audubon Society.

Federal funding for water infrastructure has dropped significantly since the 1970s, when federal aid covered nearly two-thirds of spending on local water and sewer improvement projects. After years of federal budget cuts, that had dropped to about 9 percent by 2014.