House passes legislation amending the Water Project Finance Act

The House of Representatives passed legislation that would amend the Water Project Finance Act on a 67-0 vote Saturday . One of the ways that HB 211 amends the Water Project Finance Act is to allow funding available through the Water Trust Board to be used on wastewater projects.  Initially, the bill eliminated the use […]

House passes legislation amending the Water Project Finance Act

The House of Representatives passed legislation that would amend the Water Project Finance Act on a 67-0 vote Saturday .

One of the ways that HB 211 amends the Water Project Finance Act is to allow funding available through the Water Trust Board to be used on wastewater projects. 

Initially, the bill eliminated the use of Water Trust Board funding on projects focused on implementing federal Endangered Species Act collaborative programs. However, the House Appropriation and Finance Committee amended the bill to restore that authorization.

The New Mexico Finance Authority administers the funding for Water Trust Board projects.

Bill sponsor Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, explained that the Interstate Stream Commission would typically oversee Endangered Species Act projects. She said the New Mexico Finance Authority really doesn’t have much to do with Endangered Species Act projects.

“But once upon a time, 20 years ago they did, so that’s why we’re keeping it in,” she said.

According to the fiscal impact report, there is a significant demand for grants to fund wastewater treatment facilities and conveyance systems but limited demand for projects related to the Endangered Species Act. 

Funding from the Water Trust Board has been critical in assisting water systems throughout New Mexico, especially small utilities many of which are run by volunteers, she said.

The money can be used for matching federal and local cost shares, engineering feasibility reports, contracted engineering designs, inspection of construction, special engineering services, environmental or archaeological surveys, construction, land acquisition, easements and right of ways and legal costs.

Because many water systems in the state are small and have limited staff capabilities, HB 211 includes a clause that allows the New Mexico Finance Authority to hire contractors that can provide “financial and administrative capacity development and direct technical assistance on water projects.”

Herrera said that she has 45 mutual domestic water systems in her district and 95 percent of those are run by volunteers.

“It’s a big job delivering clean drinking water 24 hours a day,” she said, adding that that is why the legislation sets up a system so that the New Mexico Finance Authority can offer them technical assistance.

HB 211 now heads to the Senate.

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