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Idaho Legislators Want Say On Federal Relief Money For Water Projects

An aerial view of Boise's Lander wastewater treatment facility
City of Boise
Boise's Lander Wastewater Treatment Facility

Roughly $1.2 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act could go to broadband, wastewater and drinking water projects in Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality already runs a grant program to improve local water resources. Jerri Henry, an administrator of the drinking water program at the department, said it gets more requests than it can currently fund.

“If you think about the things that are occurring in our state right now with a massive population growth, and those types of things, it makes sense," she said during a House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee meeting Monday.

DEQ has authority to distribute money that comes in through federal grants, and it could hand out the COVID relief funds similarly to its existing water grant programs. But the Idaho legislature also wants input, and Gov. Brad Little said he'll work closely with the legislature to distribute the money.

During the committee meeting Monday, Chair Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls) expressed interest in giving more wastewater and drinking water support to rural communities.

“With our larger cities and larger requests, it does make it easier to manage. Many are shovel ready," she said. "However, we have real needs at the smaller cities.”

The state is waiting for more guidance on how it can spend this portion of the relief money.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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