December 15, 2023, Number 49
TWDB Opens SWIFT Applications
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has opened the abridged application period for the 2024 funding cycle of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program. Applications are due by midnight on February 1, 2024 and can be submitted by the TWDB’s online application system or by paper copy.
The SWIFT program was created to provide affordable, ongoing state financial assistance for projects in the state water plan. The program helps communities develop cost-effective water supplies by providing low-interested financing, extended repayment terms, deferred repayments, and incremental repurchase terms.
EPA INVITES PUBLIC COMMENT ON NEW LEAD AND COPPER PIPE RULES
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI). The proposed rules are designed to help protect children and adults from the severe health effects caused by exposure to lead in drinking water. The EPA invites the public to review the proposed LCRI and supporting information and provide written comments. The proposed rules include:
- Requiring most water systems to replace lead service lines within ten years;
- Requiring all water systems to update their lead service lines inventories, identify all unknown materials in their water service lines, and create a publicly available service line replacement plan;
- Requiring water systems to collect first and fifth liter samples at lead service line sites and using the higher samples for compliance purposes;
- Lowering the lead action level and requiring water systems to inform the public and take action to reduce lead exposure; and
- Requiring water systems with multiple lead action level alerts to conduct additional consumer outreach and make certified lead reduction filters available to all consumers.
The EPA held an informational webinar on the proposed LCRI on December 6. The EPA will hold a virtual public hearing on the proposed rules from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. CST on January 16, 2024. City officials can register for the virtual public hearing here. More information about the LCRI can be found here.
Interested city officials may submit written comments about the LCRI at www.regulations.gov, Docket ID Number: EPA-HQ-OW-2022-0801. The EPA anticipates finalizing the proposed LCRI by October 16, 2024.
Broadband Development Office Holding Series of Local Government Technical Assistance Webinars
The Texas Broadband Development Office (BDO), in conjunction with HR&A Advisors and the Institute of Local Self-Reliance, will be holding a series of free technical assistance webinars to help local governments, non-profits, and community advocates to develop programs and prepare to take full advantage of state and federal funds to help bridge the digital divide in their communities through partnership strategies, the Digital Equity Act, and the Affordable Connectivity Program.
The webinars will cover a vast array of topics, including:
- 12/13/2023 – A Community Guide to Texas Digital Opportunity Plan
- 12/20/2023 – Your Voice Matters: A Guide to Preparing for Public Comment
- 1/3/2024 – Organized Advocacy: The Need for Local Coalitions and State Networks
- 1/10/2024 – Demystifying Broadband Basics and Funding Digital Opportunity
- 1/17/2024 – Resolving Access Gaps
- 1/24/2024 – Every Texan Connected: Working with Covered Populations
- 1/31/2024 – Sustainable Community-Based Systems for Device Deployment and Digital Skills Programs
- 2/7/2024 – Partnership and Tips on a Successful Application
The webinars will be held every Wednesday 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. CST until February 7.
City officials can register for the webinars here.
City officials with questions about the webinars may contact the BDO at email@example.com.
Lt. Governor Appoints New Chair to Criminal Justice Committee
On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Patrick appointed Senator Pete Flores (R – Pleasanton) as the new Chair of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice effective January 2024. Senator Phil King (R – Weatherford) will become the new Vice-Chair of the committee. Chairman Flores will replace Chairman John Whitmire (D – Houston) as Whitmire becomes the newly elected mayor of Houston. Mayor-Elect Whitmire leaves the Texas Legislature after fifty years of serving, thirty of which he served as Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee.
Federal Infrastructure Bill Update
In November 2021, the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed into law. The IIJA is altogether a $1.2 trillion bill that will invest in the nation’s core infrastructure priorities including roads, bridges, rail, transit, airports, ports, energy transmission, water systems, and broadband.
The League will monitor state and federal agencies and work with the National League of Cities (NLC) to access the latest information relating to the IIJA. We will provide periodic updates in the Legislative Update on resources for Texas cities on how to access IIJA funding for local infrastructure projects.
United States Department of the Interior (USDOI)
The USDOI is accepting applications for its WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency grant program. The WaterSMART program supports on-the-ground projects seeking to conserve and use water more efficiently, increase renewable energy production, mitigate future water challenges, and allow farmers to make on-farm improvements.
Eligible applicants include local and state governments, Tribal governments, water districts, and certain non-profit and private sector entities. WaterSMART funding is broken into three different funding groups depending on the scope and size of the proposed projects.
Eligible water conservation projects include:
- canal lining/piping;
- municipal water metering;
- irrigation flow management;
- supervisory control and data acquisition and automation (SCADA);
- landscape irrigation measures;
- high-efficiency indoor appliances and fixtures; and
- commercial cooling systems
Eligible renewable energy projects include:
- Developing new hydropower capacity through new or upgraded hydropower systems;
- Recommissioning mothballed hydropower facilities;
- Installing solar-electric, wind energy, or geothermal power systems; and
- Replacing fossil-fuel-powered pumps with renewable energy-based pumps
Eligible projects must be structured as follows:
- At least 50% of program time dedicated to education services;
- At least 40% of program time dedicated to occupational skills training; or
- Up to ten percent of program time for vocational training, youth leadership development, or community service learning
For this round of funding, local government applicants must be located within the western United States or U.S. territories, including Texas. Water district applicants may be located anywhere in the United States.
City officials can find more information about the WaterSMART program here. Interested applicants must submit their applications by 4:59 PM CST on February 22, 2024.
United States Department of Transportation (USDOT)
The USDOT is accepting applications for its Federal Transit Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program. The CIG program will provide funding to state and local governmental entities to support transit-related capital investment projects across the country, including heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, ferries, bus rapid transit (BRT), and corridor-based BRT investments that emulate the features of rail.
The CIG program is broken into three subprograms:
- Part A – New Starts: fixed guideway-related projects;
- Part B – Small Starts: fixed guideway-related projects and corridor-based BRT programs operating in mixed traffic; and
- Part C – Core Capacity Improvements: corridor-based investments to improve transit capacity by at least ten percent.
Part A – New Starts
New Starts funding will support the design and construction of new fixed guideways and extensions to existing fixed guideways. Fixed guideways are public transportation facilities that operate on rights-of-way designated exclusively for public transportation.
When reviewing New Starts applications, USDOT will focus on the following considerations:
- Existing corridor and station area development, parking supply, and station area pedestrian and ADA facilities;
- The proportion of existing “legally binding affordability restricted” housing within a half-mile of station areas as compared to the proportion of the same type of housing in counties through which the proposed project travels;
- Cost-effectiveness, measured on a cost-per-trip basis;
- Mobility improvements, congestion relief measures, environmental benefits, and economic development opportunities offered by the proposed project; and
- Project justification warrants.
Eligible project costs may include: (1) acquiring real property, rights-of-way, and system rolling stock; (2) relocation; and (3) interest and other financing costs necessary to carry out the project within a reasonable time.
Part B – Small Starts
Small Starts funding will support the design and construction of new fixed guideways and extensions to existing fixed guideways, including BRT projects that operate in mixed traffic.
When reviewing Small Starts applications, USDOT will focus on the same considerations as New Starts applications. Eligible project costs may include acquiring real property, rights-of-way, system rolling stock, and relocation.
Part C – Core Capacity Improvements
Core Capacity Improvements (CCI) funding will support the design and construction of corridor-based investments in fixed guideway systems that improve transit capacity by at least ten percent in transit corridors that are already at capacity or will be at capacity within ten years. Eligible projects must target specific established, successful transit corridors rather than multiple corridors or system-wide improvements.
When reviewing CCI applications, USDOT will focus on the following considerations:
- Existing capacity needs of the relevant corridor;
- Cost-effectiveness, measured on a cost-per-trip basis;
- Mobility improvements, congestion relief measures, environmental benefits, economic development opportunities offered by the proposed project; and
- Resilience elements.
All applicants must verify that their proposed project will increase capacity by at least ten percent, as outlined in the CCI Guide File.
Eligible project costs may include: (1) acquiring real property, rights-of-way, and system rolling stock; (2) double tracking; (3) electrification; (4) signalization and platform expansion and improvements; (5) constructing infill stations; and (6) interest and other financing costs necessary to carry out the project within a reasonable time.
City officials can find more information about the CIG program here. USDOT is accepting CIG applications on a rolling basis.
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