The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) today released its plan to administer its portion of the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) in Tennessee, outlining the department’s approach for improved water infrastructure in communities across the state.
Tennessee receives $3.725 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, designed to help Americans recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Bill Lee invited state agencies and stakeholders to submit proposals for consideration in the comprehensive Tennessee Resiliency Plan, developed in response to the ARP. The state’s Financial Stimulus Accountability Group, established by the governor, has dedicated $1.35 billion of the state’s total to water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure projects. TDEC is charged with administering the program and has issued its Water Infrastructure Investment Plan to outline the process.
“These funds will help us address critical needs in water infrastructure in communities throughout our state,” Lee said. “We are engaging leaders from counties across Tennessee and want to apply these funds with the most efficient and helpful process as possible.”
“We are eager to provide Tennesseans with quality water service wherever it is needed,” TDEC Commissioner David Salyers said. “While this initiative won’t cover all of our needs in this area, it will be a major step forward, and we look forward to the upgrades this program will bring.”
TDEC will host a virtual town hall on the plan Dec. 20, where Tennesseans may learn about the process, accessible at this link. Webinars on the plan will be held on Jan. 18, 2022 from noon-1 p.m., on Jan. 19 from 3 p.m.-4 p.m., and Jan. 20 from 9 a.m.-10 a.m. In-person grant workshops will be offered across the state in February and March 2022. Funds from the ARP must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024 and expended by Dec. 31, 2026.
TDEC officials emphasized that the funding is a limited, one-time event and does not meet the total need for water infrastructure improvements in the state. Reports from the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the TN H2O plan led by TDEC say the necessary investment in Tennessee water infrastructure ranges from $5 billion to $15 billion between now and 2040.
Of the $1.35 billion from the ARP, approximately $1 billion will be offered in the form of non-competitive grants to communities for eligible infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, $269 million of the total will go to state-initiated projects, and the remaining funds will go toward competitive grants.
The Water Infrastructure Investment Plan was developed by TDEC based on input provided by leaders and experts from agencies internal and external to state government. A variety of stakeholders have a vested interest in ensuring strategic use of the funds. The department sought public comment for its draft plan and received approximately 300 comments from approximately 180 individuals or entities. Those comments were seriously considered in development of the plan.
Several entities within state government currently have responsibilities in statute and rule relating to water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure, including but not limited to TDEC, the Tennessee Department of Economic Development and the Comptroller of the Treasury.
Given the volume of ARP funding, TDEC has formed an advisory group, the Water Infrastructure Advisory Committee (WIAC), which will identify priorities and projects suited for the funds; promote responsible administration of the funding; and track the progress associated with the projects and activities involved. The WIAC is chaired by TDEC and reports to the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group.