Vermont will soon be able to apply for up to $40 million in federal funding for projects to repair three aging flood control dams, after the Senate passed the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 overwhelmingly on Wednesday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the Senate, and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., in the House, authored an amendment that raised funding for dam repair from $10 million to $40 million in the new bill.
The provision authorizes safety improvements at certain state-owned flood control dams constructed by the federal government before 1940. In Vermont, three dams – the Waterbury, East Barre and Wrightsville dams – are eligible to receive funding.
Vermont will be competing with all the other states for the funds.
“These dams are essential pieces of Vermont’s infrastructure,” said Sanders in a statement, “maintaining and repairing the dams – especially the Waterbury Dam – has long been a priority for the state. This bipartisan legislation is an important step toward rebuilding aging dams in Vermont and throughout the United States.”
In a statement Welch said this legislation is necessary for communities to prepare for and mitigate damage done by large storms hitting Vermont and the Northeast.
“In 2011, Waterbury suffered a devastating flood during Tropical Storm Irene. More catastrophic damage was prevented due to the existence of the aging Waterbury Dam,” Welch said. “This important legislation will increase funding to refurbish outdated and hazardous flood control dams in Vermont and across the country.”
The bill also has a provision that authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to repair bridges in Vermont that are part of New England’s evacuation routes during extreme weather events.
In addition to infrastructure maintenance for bridges and dams, the bill includes funding for lead testing in schools and testing for unregulated contaminants including PFOA — which has been found in Bennington County.
The bill, which allows states to apply for $5 million a year in grants and $25 million a year for technical assistance for lead testing could potentially assist Richford Elementary School, which the Health Department found had lead levels equal to or above the EPA recommended limit in 33 percent of the water samples in the school.
After final congressional approval on Wednesday, the bill will go to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.