On March 15, 2022, White House Infrastructure School hosted a webinar with speakers from the EPA’s Office of Water and the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM). EPA speakers discussed how the agency will administer IIJA funds over the next five years, including $11.7 billion for the state’s revolving fund program for water (SRF), $11.7 billion for SRF for clean water (wastewater and stormwater), $15 billion for replacing lead service lines and $10 billion for emerging contaminants. The NGA reviewed the EPA programs here.
Speakers from the Department of the Interior provided an overview of the Bureau of Land Management’s water funding programs that have received $8.3 billion from the IIJA to distribute over the next five years. Information on all BLM water programs can be found on the White House IIJA online guide.
BLM programs focus on expanding access to clean water, addressing the climate crisis, improving drought resilience, and advancing environmental justice for 17 states in the Western United States . They include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming. Select programs are also available for Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
BLM plans to distribute $1.66 per year from 2022 to 2026, however, these funds are considered “non-year funds” that can be spent beyond a five-year window if needed. About two-thirds of the $8.3 billion in BLM program funds will be open to applications for public funding through Notices of Public Funding Opportunities, NOFO. A handful have already been released and are noted below. BLM will issue a steady stream of NOFOs in 2022 via grant.gov.
Where possible, IIJA funds will be disbursed through existing BLM programs, however, a few new programs have also been created such as the Restoration and protection of aquatic ecosystems Projects ($250 million); Multi-benefit projects to improve watershed health ($100 million); and Watershed management projects ($100 million). For new programs, BLM plans to develop criteria and accept public input before posting funding opportunity notices.
Program authorities and funding levels have increased significantly in some existing programs such as the Aging Infrastructure Account which received $3.2 billion from the IIJA to address the backlog of repair, rehabilitation and maintenance needs for rehabilitation infrastructure assets. Due to a significant increase in the level of funding, BLM plans to revise the application process and increase awareness among potential applicants. the Water and Groundwater Storage and Transport Program received $1.15 billion from the IIJA with expanded authority to fund Small water storage and groundwater storage projects which have a storage capacity between 2,000 and 30,000 acre-feet. the Water recycling program also received expanded authority and funding through the IIJA. It received $1 billion from the IIJA and new authority to fund large projects defined as projects with a total cost of $500 million or more.
In addition, two other existing programs have received funding from the IIJA. Water desalination projects received $250 million and the application process was open from January 14 to March 15, 2022. Water Smart Grants received $400 million for competitive grants for small projects that contribute to the sustainability of water supply, increase drought resilience and provide environmental benefits. There will be three separate funding opportunities estimated to open in March, April and May 2022. One is open now. Applications for WaterSMART Small-Scale Efficiency Projects must be submitted by April 28, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. MDT. Here is the NOFO link. Applicants are eligible for up to $100,000 and total project costs must be $225,000 or less. Eligible applicants include states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, or any other organization with authority to distribute water or electricity in the western United States or territories. Click here to watch a recording of the BLM webinar on eligible applicants and types of projects, program requirements, and assessment criteria for this funding opportunity. To schedule a time to talk to the program coordinators, Click here.
Two IIJA-funded BLM water programs are not open to public applications: the Dam Safety Program and Rural Water Projects. Allocations for these programs are formulated internally for direct federal expenditures. Under the IIJA, the Dam Safety Program received $500 million to fund reclamation dam repairs that reduce risk to people, property and the environment. the Rural Water Program received $1 billion to fund seven rural water projects that were authorized by an act of Congress by July 1, 2021.