Another infrastructure crisis looms

An editorial from The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — As federal and state leaders wrestle with the serious issues caused by the possible default of the U.S. Highway Trust Fund, another infrastructure crisis is looming.

Federal and state money for water infrastructure projects is also drying up, leaving local officials scrambling for ways to make the expansion of public water systems more affordable, especially in rural counties.

As Staff Writer Jeremiah Shelor’s story in Sunday’s edition points out, the cost to extend water lines in many area counties is cost prohibitive if the residents have to bear the costs alone.

While grants were once available, now most funding sources are loans that require a payback. And even those low-interest programs, usually with only a 1 or 1.5 percent interest rate, are seeing significant cuts in available funding.

Unfortunately, those funding cuts are coming at a time when officials are seeing more requests and need for water system expansion.

Greater Harrison Public Service District General Manager Mark Osborne said he’s seen an increase in demand for water projects.

“Where there has been a lot of federal funding in the past, those days are just gone,” Osborne told Shelor. “Now you’ve got at least 1-1.5 percent (interest loans). Even with those lending agencies, the funding is not as great as it used to be.”

The situation is similar in Lewis County, where Lewis County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Mike Herron has been coaxing along two $3.5 million extension projects.

Both are likely to get underway in spring, but Herron says the process hasn’t been easy.

“There’s not as much grant or loan money as there once was,” Herron said.

And the problem is magnified significantly by the more rural an area is…

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