San Francisco, CA—As Congress moves forward on new infrastructure legislation, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is calling on U.S. lawmakers to prioritize investments in aging water infrastructure and workforce development. The SFPUC teamed up with the League of California Cities
and the National League of Cities
(NLC) today to urge Congress to partner with cities by providing access to low-interest financing for infrastructure projects and by creating federal programs to train the next generation of the water workforce.
“The SFPUC is making major investments in San Francisco’s water and wastewater infrastructure to ensure we’re providing residents with a safe and reliable system now and well into the future, but we can’t do it alone,” said Juliet Ellis, Chief Strategy Officer and Assistant General Manager for External Affairs at the SFPUC. “Financing tools such as the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program are essential to building infrastructure projects while also creating good-paying jobs. We urge the federal government to reauthorize and fund these programs this year.”
The savings resulting from these low-interest loans are critical for implementing San Francisco’s Sewer System Improvement Program
(SSIP), a multi-billion dollar investment to upgrade the City’s century-old combined sewer system and supporting the SFPUC’s commitment to maintain ratepayer affordability. The project is just one example of the work cities across the country are doing to rebuild aging infrastructure.
“Rebuilding and reimagining our infrastructure is a top priority for city leaders across America,” said National League of Cities (NLC) President Mark Stodola, mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas. “City leaders are in the best position to determine where infrastructure investments should be made, because we know the unique needs of our individual communities. It’s also crucial that we invest in training and education programs to ensure our residents have the skills to obtain jobs and participate in our 21st century economy.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over 30 percent of the water workforce will be eligible for retirement within the next five years. At the SFPUC, two-thirds of employees will be eligible for retirement in the next 10 years. This is a particular concern for mission-critical jobs, such as the skilled trades, because utility operations rely on those qualified staff around the clock.
“When we invest in infrastructure, we invest in our future,” said Rich Garbarino, President of the League of California Cities and South San Francisco City Councilman. “Congress must develop an infrastructure proposal that addresses the issues cities face today. From storm water management, to the impacts of climate change on our infrastructure, and rate affordability, this will pay dividends for the long-term for our economy and our communities.”
That’s why the SFPUC and the NLC are actively working with the Water Agency Leaders Alliance, a group of executives from public water and wastewater utilities across the country, to push for bipartisan bills that build major infrastructure projects, create good-paying jobs and fund workforce training. New legislation from U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Shelley Moore Capito is expected to tackle the workforce training aspect soon. The upcoming bill would create a competitive grant program for water workforce development. Similar federal programs exist for several other sectors, but not in water.
The SFPUC, the League and NLC will continue to partner throughout the year on this effort.
The event was live streamed and can be accessed at www.facebook.com/sfwater.