The project funding was approved at the State Water Infrastructure Authority’s Feb. 10 meeting. The Authority is an independent body with primary responsibility for awarding federal and state funding for water and wastewater infrastructure projects. Other responsibilities include developing a state water infrastructure master plan, recommending ways to maximize the use of available loan and grant funding resources, and examining best and emerging practices.
“North Carolina’s communities need resilient, viable water infrastructure systems to support economic development. Funding these projects helps counties and towns with aging water infrastructure deliver clean, safe water to attract new jobs and keep people healthy,” said Governor Cooper.
Notable projects in the latest funding round include:
- Brunswick County will receive a $2,852,818 State Reserve grant to pay for extensive rehabilitation of the sewer system in Navassa.
- Brunswick County will also receive $2,218,967 through a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan, with 100 percent principal forgiveness, for extensive rehabilitation of Navassa’s drinking water system. Navassa recently consolidated with Brunswick County.
- Lumberton, in Robeson County, will receive $2,316,900 through Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2019 (ASADRA) principal forgiveness loan funding to construct three wells outside the flood plain, replacing three wells in the flood plain that are subject to flooding.
- Davie County will receive $21,123,807 in funding to expand its Cooleemee Water Treatment Plant, promoting regionalization and replacing Mocksville’s Hugh A. Lagle Water Treatment Plant.
- Goldsboro, in Wayne County, will receive $1,268,000 in ASADRA principal forgiveness loan funding to consolidate the Big Cherry
- Pump Station and relocate the Little Cherry Pump Station out of the 100-year flood plain.
- A list of all projects funded statewide by town and/or county is available at: Feb. 2021 State Water Infrastructure Authority Funding Award Summary.
The grants and loans are funded through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan program, Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan program, the Drinking Water and Wastewater State Reserve programs, and through the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2019 (or ASADRA). ASADRA funding provides for resiliency-focused projects at drinking water facilities and wastewater treatment works impacted by Hurricanes Florence and Michael. The state provided more than $17 million in required matching funds. Awards this round also include asset inventory and assessment and merger/regionalization feasibility funding, which comes from state grants.
Reliable water and sewer systems are essential for the state’s quality of life and economic and environmental future. Studies show that North Carolina needs from $17 billion to $26 billion in upgrades to its water and sewer infrastructure statewide. As indicated in the funding award summary document, the amount of funding requested by North Carolina towns in this funding round alone, $850 million, far exceeded the $282.3 million in available funding for this round- strong evidence of the need for additional funding.
In other State Water Infrastructure Authority meeting action, the Authority approved the distressed unit designation for four towns: Askewville (Bertie County), Robersonville (Martin County), Ronda (Wilkes County), and Wilkesboro (Wilkes County), leading to a total of eight towns approved thus far with this designation. At the Authority’s November meeting, Bethel (Pitt County), Eureka (Wayne County), Kingstown (Cleveland County) and Cliffside (Rutherford County) were identified as distressed.
The Authority will consider 110 additional local government units for the designation at a later meeting. In the interim, the towns will be given an opportunity to share additional information that may affect their assessment. Designations are based on distressed unit criteria approved by the Authority at its November meeting and developed in collaboration with the Local Government Commission (LGC). The criteria were used to evaluate 496 local government units with water and/or sewer systems. This determination is an important first step in a closer evaluation of the utility’s status. In addition, it is a factor in the allocation of $9 million in funding made available through Viable Utility Reserve legislation, Session Law 2020-79, signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper in July 2020.
Kim Colson, Authority chair and director of the Division of Water Infrastructure, emphasized that for any unit identified in the assessment, that town may be experiencing issues that are widespread in the state. “Many municipalities are struggling, and that struggle is symptomatic of the overall condition of the rural economy and the challenges of managing aging infrastructure issues and associated costs. The number of units that initially met the criteria is indicative of the significant need for funding.”