FRANKFORT, Ky. (Aug. 7, 2018) — Kentucky has billions of dollars in wastewater and drinking water infrastructure needs, and some state lawmakers are eager to find solutions.
Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Energy co-chair Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, told Energy and Environment Cabinet officials testifying before the committee yesterday that there is still local water infrastructure in the state dating to the Works Progress Administration of the late 1930s.
“Most cities don’t have the money to make those kinds of investments anymore,” said Gooch, even though water lines regularly break and need repair. “Those kinds of things are problems that we need to address, and they need help.”
He agreed with Deputy Cabinet Secretary Bruce Scott and Division of Water Director Peter Goodmann that local governments need funding to meet their water infrastructure needs. The source of the funding, said Gooch, is “something we definitely ought to look at.”
Investment in Kentucky’s drinking water infrastructure would be the most costly according to Goodmann, who estimated the cost of needed statewide investment at $8.2 billion over the next 20 years. Wastewater infrastructure investment runs a close second at $6.2 billion over the next 20 years, he said.
Also needed is $100 million for work on the state’s dams “in the near-term” based on the state’s 2014 Dam Safety Mitigation Plan, Goodmann told the committee. He was backed up by Scott, who told the committee that water and sewer infrastructure cannot be overlooked indefinitely.
“We have to make an investment. We can’t not make an investment in water and sewer,” said Scott. The outcome would be to be “reactive”—or wait until a major infrastructure failure occurs before some action is taken.
Possible funding options for infrastructure, Scott said, include federal sources like Kentucky Infrastructure Authority loans, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, Appalachian Regional Commission grants and Abandoned Mine Land grants. State sources may include state general funds, tobacco settlement funds, or coal severance funds. Local funding and private funding—through a P3 partnership, perhaps—are other possibilities, Bruce said.
Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, asked Scott and Goodmann about the cabinet’s view of Louisville Metro’s sewer company, the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), which he said has had some “serious issues.”
“It is in our interest that the small communities be served, period,” Meeks said, but the state’s view of MSD, he said, is also of interest.
Scott said the state has the authority to deal with an issue if “demonstrative progress” is not being made. “The question becomes what constitutes demonstrative progress?”
Two unforeseen sewer collapses in Louisville have raised the question of whether the collapses “negatively impact Jefferson County’s ability to manage its sewage, stormwater or not,” said Scott. “That’s something we have to talk with them about and see whether or not that’s something we have to get involved in in terms of mandates.”