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Sen. Schumer Crticizes Obama Administration's Plan To Cut Water Project Funds

U.S. Senate

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer criticized the Obama administration's recent proposal that would effectively cut $40 million from state sewer and water projects, jeopardizing more than 340 critical sewer upgrades in upstate New York. 

The New York Democrat spoke to reporters Tuesday on a conference telephone call. He sounded the alarm that federal funding for sewer repairs has been slowly draining over the past few years, leaving states and municipalities without enough support to start long-overdue sewer repairs.  "The Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which gives money to the states to help local governments fund these sewer repairs, has dropped over $600 million since 2010. Even more galling, the Administration’s recent budget request would cut funding to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, by another $400 million dollars – that means about a $40 million cut for New York.  That’s basically turning the tap off – and it sets a very bad precedent for future budgets if we don’t protect funding now."

The proposal would cut a total of $430 million nationwide from the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund. There are more than 340 pending applications for funding through the loan program in New York. Schumer categorized the cut as an "unacceptable hit to local budgets, property taxes and New York's aging infrastructure.”  He cited examples:   "In Johnson City, down in the Binghamton area in the Southern Tier, that was hit hard by Tropical Storm Lee. They're still recovering from flood damage to their sewage plant. In Utica in Oneida County, they are continuing an effort to separate their sewer system. At present, the city is plagued with a combined sewer overflow, which is polluting the Mohawk River. Their projects will work to alleviate that overflow while repairing inner city systems, some nearing 100 years old.  And in Westchester County, the Alexander Street pump station needs repairs, as it is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. This is a really important one because it affects the water quality of the Hudson River."

Schumer adds there at least 30 similar projects in different parts of the state. Riverkeeper Water Quality Advocate Tracy Brown:    "To have the federal government continue to cut the state revolving fund monies that are available to support repair and maintenance is really gonna have a direct impact on water quality and it's gonna increase the number of sewage infrastructure failures and the amount of pollution in our waterways."

Senator Schumer is calling on the Senate Appropriations Committee to throw the proposed $1 billion budget number out the window, urging it to provide more robust funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The program is funded at $1.4 billion for fiscal year 2014.

Schumer emphasized he'll be fighting to make sure more of this funding can be given as grants.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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