The word cloud above reflects the responses of 182 municipalities participating in an 8/30/2023 WaterNow webinar to the question, “What are the most significant challenges your agency faces regarding sewer overflows and stormwater management?” The results, particularly the challenge of funding, are no surprise to anyone who is a member of the Exchange. And funding, i.e., grant funding from EPA’s Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants Program (OSG), was the subject of the webinar. (Recording and slides should be available here, shortly).
The OSG program has its origins in the 2018 amendments to the Clean Water Act. That law prescribes a formula to give each state an allotted share of federally appropriated funds and gives states broad flexibility in administering the program. Municipalities then apply to the state to fund their eligible OSG projects.
Eligible projects include those that address combined sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows, or stormwater. Green infrastructure is among the types of projects specified as eligible. Planning, design, and construction are eligible costs and, since, all OSG projects are eligible for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program (CWSRF), OSG can be used to supplement the cost of CWSRFP projects.
Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) some OSG applicants get priority over others, especially those who represent financially distressed communities, a phrase that is defined state-by-state. In addition, there is a 20% Green Project Reserve (a phrase that specifically includes green infrastructure projects) requirement and a mandate that 25% of funds go to rural and/or financially distressed communities. In short, this program is very aligned with our mission of equitable GSI implementation.
One downside is that the federal appropriation for the program was just $50 million in FY 2023. Carved up 50+ ways, that will not go far. In addition, states must come up with a 20% cost share, something the State of Wisconsin, a participant in the webinar, manages through a grant program funded by state bond revenues. The cost share requirement is eliminated for applicants from rural and/or disadvantaged communities per the BIL amendments.
To learn more about the program, consult the EPA OSG program website at: https://www.epa.gov/cwsrf/sewer-overflow-and-stormwater-reuse-municipal-grants-program