EPA, MRCTI Hold River ‘Funding Summit’

Officials of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state environmental commissioners held a Mississippi River Corridor Summit on Water Infrastructure Funding with Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI) mayors May 11 at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center in East Alton Ill. The event was co-sponsored by EPA’s Region 5 and Region 7. 

In 2022, EPA is providing nearly $1 billion in funds from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to 10 Mississippi River Corridor states from Minnesota to Louisiana.

Participants included Zealan Hoover, the senior adviser on infrastructure implementation to the EPA administrator; the mayors of East St. Louis, Alton, East Alton and Grafton, Ill., and Kimmswick, Mo.; officials of the state environmental and conservation agencies of Missouri and Illinois; Dr. Ken Trzaska, the president of Lewis and Clark Community College; and the executive director of the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, Dr. Gary Rolfe. The federal, state and local leaders participating in the summit strategized ways to overcome access challenges that may stand in the way of the cities equitably competing for the funding. 

The IIJA’s investment in the water sector has been called “nothing short of transformational.” The law mandates that 49 percent of the $43 billion provided through Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) be distributed as grants and forgivable loans to overburdened communities or communities that meet the state’s affordability criteria or certain project types. SRFs are a long-standing partnership between EPA, states, tribes, territories and local communities.

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“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will invest more than $75 billion in the Mississippi Corridor over the next five years, including billions of dollars specifically focused on water infrastructure and economic development,” Hoover said. “President Biden has directed us to move quickly to ensure this funding reaches the communities of greatest need, supports good-paying union jobs and strengthens local economies.”

“Our goal going into this summit was for EPA and the states to better understand the needs of mayors of the many overburdened communities along the Mississippi River, so we can provide the technical assistance they need to equitably compete for this funding,” EPA Region 7 Administrator Meg McCollister said. “MRCTI mayors are clear that we can best support them by providing timely information and technical assistance on how the State Revolving Fund is implemented in their states. In EPA Region 7, we are committed to working with Iowa and Missouri state environmental departments to schedule follow-up meetings with their mayors to provide detailed technical assistance and contact lists, so the mayors and their public works staff know whom to contact.”

Funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide significant benefits to Illinois, especially to our small and disadvantaged communities that have limited resources to meet essential wastewater and drinking water infrastructure needs,” Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim said. “We welcome this opportunity to work with our federal partners and meet with local officials so we can better address the challenges these communities face and provide the necessary resources to get the funding where it is needed most.”