When the White House wanted to make sure the water industry would be represented at its Infrastructure Summit, MCWRS Board Member Joshua Schimmel was invited to the table. Schimmel, Executive Director of the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission, and Chris Cignoli, Springfield Department of Public Works Director, joined a group of bipartisan governors, mayors, and other local officials for a series of working sessions with cabinet secretaries in June, The Republican reported.
The summit, held a few weeks after President Trump released his infrastructure plan, aimed to brainstorm ways the federal government can remove or mitigate regulatory and permitting barriers to completing infrastructure projects. The dire condition of the nation’s infrastructure has been well documented and will require many billions of dollars just to catch up on backlogs. The participants discussed ideas for streamlining onerous permitting processes and accelerating project schedules. Firm deadlines on review periods, for example, would eliminate the open-ended nature for some permits. Shorter timelines mean less money spent and increased productivity, two key advantages for local utilities and municipalities.
Other strategies include creating more funding opportunities for infrastructure projects, perhaps in the form of federal support with matching funds from state and local governments.
Schimmel said his invitation to the summit demonstrates that “there is a commitment to infrastructure investment and reduction in the regulatory and permitting burden to utilities and municipalities.”
A separate water infrastructure breakout session was scheduled but ultimately combined with other categories. “Although there seems to be more of a focus on highways and bridges,” Schimmel added, “there has been an open dialogue with water and sewer advocacy groups to increase awareness within the administration.” President Trump’s remarks to attendees specifically call out “new locks and dams, new pipes for our water,” as examples of infrastructure investments his administration will prioritize. Those pipes for our water are underground and often forgotten, so the awareness of the need at the highest levels is critical.
MCWRS is grateful to Director Schimmel for taking time to travel to Washington to represent water and sewer infrastructure at the national level, and for pushing for the protection of municipalities’ interests and fiscal responsibility in maintaining and updating water infrastructure.