Capital Region Officials to Governor Cuomo: $800M Needed to #FixOurPipes

For Immediate Release: December 13, 2016

Capital Region Officials to Governor Cuomo: $800M Needed to #FixOurPipes

Funding Critical to Combat Water Main Breaks, Sewage Overflows, Business Closures

Albany – As Governor Cuomo prepares his budget proposal, local officials from around the state urged him to help communities rebuild aging drinking and wastewater infrastructure by investing $800 million annually. Over the last two years, New York State has begun to provide communities the funding they need for water infrastructure projects, which bolsters the state’s commitment to growing the Upstate economy, and providing clean, safe drinking water for all New Yorkers.

The local leaders represent communities that have had to grapple with pipes that may be more than 100 years old, which has led to sewage overflows and water main breaks that damage streets, close businesses and schools, pollute our waters, and can harm public health.

Executives

Troy Mayor Patrick Madden said, “The issue of aging infrastructure continues to be a challenge for legacy cities like Troy and other communities across New York State. Support from the Governor and state legislature for programs like the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act has provided critically important funding for necessary upgrades to our city’s water and sewer network, including the planned replacement of a major water transmission line which serves Troy and several nearby Capital Region communities. An increase in available state funding for water infrastructure projects would strengthen New York’s ongoing efforts to provide needed investments in local water systems, and ensures the continued prosperity of our city, region and state.”

Troy has 145 miles of water lines, with an estimated repair cost of $2 million per mile.

Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said, “The time is now to invest in the state’s water infrastructure to ensure that we can help local communities meet their needs in the years to come. It’s been a challenging year and we must work together to ensure we invest in our systems and consider the burden on taxpayers.”     

Green Island Mayor Ellen McNulty-Ryan said, “All municipalities face the same reality that their infrastructure is old, frail and in need of significant overhaul. We are appreciative of the efforts of our New York State Legislature and Governor Cuomo to allocate grants for infrastructure improvements during their last session but the real need is to provide for a continuous funding source. I ask that they please consider a program that will assure that these needed upgrades and repairs are made on a regular basis so as to provide a safe, clean water supply for the future of our communities.” 

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “The Water Infrastructure Improvement Act allows municipalities like Albany to pay for vital upgrades to our water quality systems. Albany has greatly benefited from these funds in the past, and we support the efforts of Environmental Advocates of New York and others to ensure that the program continues into the future.”

Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa said, “Segments of our sewer system date back to the early 1900’s, so investing in infrastructure projects makes a lot of sense. We are thankful for the creation of a clean water program in New York State because it’s hard for taxpayers of small communities to foot the entire bill. I believe the State should continue to lead on this issue by providing necessary funding to address aging infrastructure in small cities like mine, especially those that are facing financial difficulties.”

Managers

John Sweeney, Village Manager of Saranac Lake said, “Saranac Lake is in the same boat as most other communities in the North Country. A lack of investment over many decades means our pipes are old — we’re talking 50 to 100 years in many cases — which isn’t good for our economy, health, or environment. The cost of maintenance and upgrades can be overwhelming for towns and villages. I think the Governor and state legislators made a great move by creating a grant program to help communities like Saranac Lake. We all agree much more investment is needed, and I encourage Governor Cuomo to set the tone by increasing funding in his budget.”

The Village of Saranac Lake has an estimated 35 miles of water lines, not including sewer or storm drainage. In 2015, the Village received one of the first round of grants distributed through the WIIA.

Newburgh City Manager Michael Ciaravino said, “Investments in water infrastructure and watershed protection are key ways the state can help cities like ours provide clean drinking water and protect the Hudson River. As a city that is experiencing a drinking water crisis, we have a deep appreciation for programs like this to help us invest in critical infrastructure.”

In 2016, Newburgh received a $3.125 million grant toward a $12.5 million project to reduce sewage overflows into the Hudson River.

City/County Legislators

Frank Commisso, Majority Leader of the Albany County Legislature said, “Our water infrastructure has decayed with age, and in some places, threatens the health and safety of those around us. We must correct the problems and going forward, invest in preventative maintenance. For this to occur, it takes the state and federal governments to get involved with financing. Reliable piping and clean water are essential.”

Frank Commisso Jr., member of the Albany Common Council said, “Now more than ever, municipalities like Albany need a strong and consistent commitment from our federal and state leaders to provide funding for water infrastructure improvements. The New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Act should be maintained to ensure we have both clean water and a strengthened economy.”

Carolyn McLaughlin, president of the Albany Common Council said, “Too much of the core infrastructure, streets and neighborhoods are slowly decaying due to a lack of investment and long term strategic planning of Albany. Our future ability to attract and retain residents is dependent on the stability of our critical infrastructure. Strengthening our roads and aging water infrastructure must be a top priority, and this priority can be advanced by the influx of much-needed funding. We cannot continue to let the bottom fall out of our city.”

Sean Ward, Chairman of the Albany County Legislature said, “In parts of Albany County, the water infrastructure is crumbling below our feet. We’ve reached a point where we must repair or replace it. We respectfully ask our state and federal leaders for assistance in helping to make our communities safe.”

Experts

Peter A. Baynes, executive Director of NYCOM said, “Public infrastructure is essential to both a community’s economic growth and improved quality of life. The physical structures to support economic growth must be in place for that growth to actually occur – and that can only be accomplished through a strong and steady investment by our state. Although $400 million has been appropriated for the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act over the last two years, this funding only scratches the surface in terms of the need that exists in this area. NYCOM supports significantly increased funding to help local governments upgrade their water and sewer systems and ensure that all local governments are eligible to receive such resources.” 

Martin Daley, Environmental Planner for Capital District Regional Planning Commission said, “Through a Consent Order mandated $135 million program, Albany Pool Communities Long Term Control Plan ensures the Capital Region residents have a reliable, resilient wastewater system and a cleaner river with which to connect. Because water and sewer infrastructure is supported by regressive fees, not generated through property taxes, ratepayers living in poverty or on a fixed income are especially sensitive to rate increases. It is imperative that state and federal funding be leveraged to assist local communities. Funding support from our state and federal partners can help address failing critical infrastructure, improve water quality, and protect against combined sewer surcharges while reducing the burden on ratepayers.”

Joseph Fiegl, P.E., President of the New York Water Environment Association said, “Municipalities across New York are challenged with the need to invest in clean water infrastructure. Many water and sewer utilities have projects at the ready but do not have the financial capacity to advance the capital improvements. Grant assistance from the state jumpstarts projects and provides critical support for local ratepayers shouldering the remaining costs. Enhancing the protection of the state’s waterways and our public health – as well as supporting economic development – is worth the investment.”  

Charles Moore, director of planning and development for the City of Rensselaer said, “Investment in clean water infrastructure just makes plain sense not only environmentally which is paramount, but economically as well. The City of Rensselaer has already begun to see dividends from the approximately $15 million in clean water and drinking water projects completed over the last five years. Lower costs from repairs and new building projects have all been achieved by tying into new, reliable municipal infrastructure.”

Liz Moran, water & natural resources associate at Environmental Advocates of New York said, “No one fights harder for their communities than local officials, and no one understands the unique and extraordinarily costly challenge of maintaining a water infrastructure well past its expected life. The priority for many of these officials and Governor Cuomo is to keep people safe, and to help communities grow. That can’t happen on old pipes. New Yorkers need this investment.”

State Legislators

Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany) said, “There is nothing more important than ensuring the health and safety of our communities. As our infrastructure ages, it is critical that we allocate the resources necessary for improvements. Enacting the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act must be at the forefront of this effort because having safe drinking water and a modern sewer network is vital to our health and economic vitality.”

Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D-Albany) said, “I am proud to have partnered with Governor Cuomo, Assemblymember McDonald and our colleagues in state government to provide much-needed funding to help communities fix vital water and sewer pipes. This will require new resources in the years ahead – as we saw in the city of Albany earlier this year with disruptive failures and gaping sinkholes, in our aging water infrastructure. I encourage the Governor to make the program we created a permanent part of the budget, and welcome working with him to build legislative support for necessary adequate annual funding.”

Assemblymember John McDonald III (D-Albany) said, “As a former Mayor and as a legislator who worked with my colleague Assemblymember Steve Otis to secure additional funding for the Water Infrastructure Grant Program in the State Budget, I understand the importance of addressing our aging infrastructure and committing the necessary funds to ensure that our water is safe while reducing the costs to local governments associated with these major projects. It is important to provide additional support for this successful program and ensure that it continues.”

Assemblyman and Senator-Elect Jim Tedisco (R-Clifton Park) said, “New York’s aging water and sewer infrastructure, some of which dates back to the Civil War, is the lurking monster which will not go away just by closing our eyes and wishing it away. On the contrary, that monster can catastrophically attack at any time the safety of our drinking water, sewer and gas lines and the ability of taxpayers to afford repairs. That’s why we need additional funding for the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act in the state budget and that’s why I’m sponsoring S.WA.P. (Safe Water infrastructure Action Program) legislation to replicate the success of the CHIPS local road maintenance and repair program on the state level to allow local governments to S.W.A.P.-out deteriorating drinking water, storm water, gas lines, sanitary sewer, and dams and water tower infrastructure – because an ounce of prevention now can protect the safety of our water supply and save tax dollars later by preventing costly breaks.”

New York’s Growing Needs

The Environmental Facility Corporation’s 2017 Final Intended Use Plan (IUP) states that, “the demand for EFC’s financial assistance is higher than ever, in part due to the renewed focus on water infrastructure issues.” All 62 counties in New York State have requested aid in water infrastructure improvement projects and, in 2017, it is estimated that the EFC will only be able to meet 14 percent of the identified need statewide.

Additionally, in a report titled “A Gathering Storm,” the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) identified $36 billion in unmet wastewater infrastructure needs over 20 years, with tens of billions more needed for drinking water infrastructure, according to the state Department of Health (DOH).

Governor Cuomo and the Legislature created the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015 (WIIA), the first of its kind within the State Budget, which has designated a total of $400 million over three years. That program, however, is expected to sunset at the end of SFY2017-18. To date, approximately 130 projects have received funding from the program.

There has been strong interest expressed in water infrastructure improvements from a diverse set of groups in Hudson River Watershed counties, where the documented need for wastewater infrastructure investments alone tops $2.5 billion, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 2016, wastewater projects in the Hudson River Watershed with total project costs of $285 million were initiated with Water Infrastructure Improvement Act grants acting as the catalysts. 

Examples of Area Infrastructure Breakdowns

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Contacts:

John Salka (Mayor Patrick Madden) John.salka@troyny.gov, 518-279-7131

Brian Shea (Mayor Kathy Sheehan) bshea@albanyny.gov, 518-434-5100

Sean Ward (Mayor Ellen McNulty-Ryan) seanw@villageofgreenisland.com, 518-273-2201

Carol DeJohn (Mayor Michael Villa) cdejohn@amsterdamny.gov, 518-841-4311

Max Oppen (Environmental Advocates of New York) moppen@eany.org, 518-462-5526