A Revenue Stream for Water?

"There is no place in the state that will benefit more than Long Island from this funding,” State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said of recent water quality measures proposed at the state level. Durell Godfrey

Clean water, both to drink and in ponds and bays, is high on the 2017 agenda for local and state lawmakers.

As East Hampton officials work on a plan to offer property owners in key sensitive areas an incentive to upgrade the substandard septic systems that contribute to nitrogen pollution, New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017, a plan to invest $2 billion in water projects across the state, and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. has separately introduced legislation that would place a $5 billion bond act referendum on the ballot in November, with $4 billion to be earmarked for water quality improvement projects, and $1 billion for open space preservation.

The governor’s plan would provide capital funds to upgrade municipal drinking water and wastewater systems, and to protect surface and drinking water through efforts such as open space conservation, wetland protection, and the containment of contaminated road runoff. The state Superfund would also be increased to expedite the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in order to protect drinking water.

Last year, the governor launched a “water quality rapid response team” to identify and address drinking water quality issues, and in September, he signed legislation that requires school districts to test for lead in drinking water.

“There is no place in the state that will benefit more than Long Island from this funding,” Assemblyman Thiele said in a press release regarding the state funding. “We are surrounded by water and draw our drinking water from under our feet. With the development of the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan (LINAP), the development of new technology from the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook, and the recent approval of water quality funding as part of the Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund, eastern Long Island is well positioned to take full advantage of state water quality capital funds.”

Assemblyman Thiele said that his proposed state bond act would make money available for “green infrastructure” that will safeguard water and bolster jobs and the economy. 

“Many industries, including tourism, fishing, and agriculture depend on clean water. We will never reverse the continued degradation of our water resources without a major influx of capital funding to address our crumbling green infrastructure,” he said in a press release last week.

He expects New York voters will support his proposed bond act to finance environmental initiatives, as they have approved seven similar referendums since 1960. The last was the 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act fostered by then-governor George Pataki.

“ I am hopeful that this idea will get serious consideration during the 2017 [legislative] session,” he said.