First round of Louisiana water and sewer systems recommended for $23 million in funding

Dozens of Louisiana water and sewer projects that were originally in the state’s construction budget have been moved over to the water and sewer program and recommended for funding, kicking off the first set of recommendations from the Water Sector Commission.

The commission sent 29 capital outlay projects to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget during a Tuesday meeting. The projects, which include water districts in Calcasieu Parish, West Monroe, Natchez and DeQuincy, need around $23 million in funding. 

 “This is going to be a fast moving train,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said. “Based upon the discussions we’ve had, everybody’s going to work hard to meet these timely deadlines and I think they’ll do so.” 

More projects are still in the works. After hitting a few operational snags, applications for the first round of water and sewer system funding were submitted in November, with 539 eligible applications totaling more than $1.1 billion in requests. Under the guidelines, eligible water systems can receive up to $5 million.

These applications will be scored and turned into the commission by Jan. 10. The deadline was pushed back by a few weeks to allow for more detailed information on project scoring, so that systems who scored poorly can rework their applications and reapply for the second round of funding. This second round was supposed to start in early January, but will most likely also be pushed back due to the application scoring delays. 

The program was created by the Louisiana Legislature earlier this year to allocate $300 million in federal pandemic aid, but this money is only about 4% of the estimated amount needed to fix Louisiana’s troubled water and sewer systems. 

Around 20% out of the 1,287 water systems that the Louisiana Department of Health oversees are not up to code, the Illuminator reported in May, with close to 2,000 boil water notices issued in the state every year. President Joe Biden’s administration calculated that Louisiana would need $7 billion over the next 20 years to fix water systems. 



While more money may come in–the Legislature still has a remaining $1.4 billion in federal COVID-19 aid that will be allocated next year–lawmakers on the commission said they were trying to stretch the money as far as possible for now. 

“We need to set priorities within each project, to be able to make the money go as far as we can to actually address the needs that are in the state, which are many,” Sen. Brett Allain, R-Franklin, said. 

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