Utility Contractors Association of Rhode Island (UCARI) at its recent general membership meeting heard praise for passage of a bill boosting federal funding for water infrastructure work but also warnings that the state needs to adopt uniform water standards.
Held at the Barnsiders Mile & A Quarter Restaurant in Providence, the meeting featured guest speakers Anthony Simeone, executive director of Rhode Island's Clean Water Finance Agency, and Kenneth Payne, senior policy advisor to the Rhode Island State Senate Office, who commented on House passage of Bill HR 720.
That legislation, spearheaded by the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) and the Clean Water Council (CWC), is expected to raise Rhode Island's funding level of $7.2 million to $13.4 million in FY 08, $20.1 million in FY 09, $26.8 million in FY 10, and $33.5 million in FY 11.
"The passage of this bill puts a small but needed dent in our infrastructure needs and our industry's economy," said UCARI President Ron Nunes.
Agreeing with this assessment, both guest speakers hailed the new legislation and noted the positive impact it would have on work and future jobs.
"This is an incredible moment for Rhode Island and the nation," said Simeone. Payne echoed this sentiment but added that Rhode Island has to get serious about the state's failing infrastructure and water quality in general. He noted that Rhode Island has over 480 public and private water companies and/or authorities that are all on different pages when in comes to state standards, materials used, and who controls and repairs existing infrastructure.
UCARI Executive Director Bob Lafleur also commented on this hodge-podge of parties responsible for the state's water quality.
Rhode Island water companies need "to get their act together and get on the same page. The fact that the state has more than 480 water authorities is testimony that the state needs to take the bull by the horns and create four or five geographically designated county authorities to bring conformance and consistency to standards and water quality."
He said that UCARI has been working on these issues over the last few years along with NUCA and the CWC. In line with this, the Rhode Island General Assembly recently established a Joint Committee on Water Quality and Infrastructure to promote uniform standards and controls.
HR20 will also raise water infrastructure funding for Connecticut from $13.1 million in FY 07 to $61.1 million in FY 11, and Massachusetts from $36.3 million in FY 07 to $169.3 million in FY 11, Lafleur said. n
(Ed.: A special thanks to UCARI Executive Director Bob Lafleur, who provided information for this article.)