New Report Offers Long-Term Water Quality Funding Recommendations

 

MONTPELIER -- The Act 73 Working Group released its recommendations today for long-term water quality funding to meet the state’s clean water goals.

Significant long-term investment is needed to restore and sustain the high quality of Vermont’s waterways. While existing resources available from state, municipal and private sectors will meet their portion of the required clean water investment in the immediate future, these resources are stressed and unlikely to be adequate after FY 2021.

With an eye toward developing long-term water quality solutions, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 73 in June. The Act 73 Working Group formed to develop a report that would include recommendations for an equitable and effective long-term clean water funding strategy. The Working Group examined solutions to address the primary goal of Vermont’s clean water initiative, which is not simply to raise and spend money, rather it is to reach water quality standards.

It is essential that any approach to raising revenue is efficient with administrative costs proportionate to the revenue raised. This report offers concrete recommendations for improving water quality over the long-term and lays out a set of parameters that will guide how state dollars are invested to ensure they produce improvements in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

“Investing in clean water provides a unique opportunity to protect Vermont’s environment and grow our economy by revitalizing working landscapes, school campuses, downtowns and village centers, supporting farmers and local agriculture, upgrading state and local roads, and restoring important natural resources. We are aggressively funding water quality improvement projects, providing direct support for implementation. Since July alone, the State of Vermont has funded nearly $17 million dollars in clean water projects,” said Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore.

On November 15, the Act 73 Working Group delivered its Water Quality Funding Report to the Vermont Legislature. This report is an important step forward in identifying long-term water quality funding. The recommendations put forth in the report reflect the need for action and propose a path forward to fund future clean water investments.  

There are five key, consensus-based recommendations in the report, listed below: 

  1. Utilize existing state revenues and financial instruments to fund clean water through FY21.
  2. Allow clean water priorities to guide how costs are shared across sectors.
  3. Establish approaches for revenue collection and service delivery that are environmentally efficient and cost effective.
  4. Pursue technological and regulatory innovation, including commoditizing phosphorus, developing flexible financing, and leveraging integrated planning and permitting models.
  5. Commit to adaptive management.

The report identifies and provides background on critical public policy decisions, including the level of cost-share the state is willing to provide each sector for clean water projects. With respect to “equitable and effective long-term funding,” the Working Group identifies a series of service delivery models that could provide the technical and administrative capacity needed to ensure the efficient, effective delivery of funds and commits to immediately drafting the scope of work that will lead to selection of a preferred approach.

When it comes to the state’s role in cost sharing, the Working Group recommends the General Assembly develop a cost-share strategy that will allow the state to distribute revenue across the range of required water quality investments. This report is part of a continued conversation on the state’s overall vision for water quality goals, and the revenue collection and investment needed to inform potential approaches for both raising and distributing revenue.

For more information, visit http://anr.vermont.gov/about/special-topics/act-73-clean-water-funding