By Sen. Jim Tedisco
New York’s aging water and sewer infrastructure, some of which dates back to the Civil War, is the lurking monster which will not go away if we just close our eyes and wish it away.
On the contrary, that monster can catastrophically attack at any time the safety of our drinking water, sewer and gas lines and the ability of taxpayers to afford repairs.
Support for infrastructure including our underground infrastructure that is an important part of the foundation under our roads, sidewalks and bridges is going to be one of my highest priorities this year as I join the New York State Senate as the new representative for the 49th Senate District.
We have a great CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) that provides a formula-based annual funding source for local governments to maintain and repair local roads and bridges. However, we will only put good money after bad if we keep filling potholes and repairing roads when the infrastructure that’s underneath is deteriorating.
That’s why I’ve authored and am sponsoring S.WA.P. (Safe Water infrastructure Action Program) legislation to replicate the success of the CHIPS program on the state level to allow local governments to S.W.A.P.-out deteriorating drinking water, storm water, gas lines, sanitary sewer and dams and water tower infrastructure to protect the safety of our water supply and save tax dollars later.
Last year, a century-old water main break in Troy caused a major disruption for the Collar City and a ripple-effect for several towns that purchase water from the city who were forced to declare states of emergency to conserve water.
In just the past few months, we’ve had a water-main break in Albany creating a sinkhole that swallowed a car, a sewer break in Amsterdam, a main break forcing the closure of Schenectady City Hall for a few days and two main breaks in Rotterdam.
These are just the latest examples of why we need the S.W.A.P. program that Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett conceived of and several of my state colleagues and I have put into legislation to repair and maintain vital local drinking water, sewer, storm water management and gas line infrastructure. It is intended to protect lives, secure the viability of roads and bridges above ground, save tax dollars, and keep New York an economic destination for business and industry and job creation.
Unlike, the current “Hunger Games”-like competitive grant program for water infrastructure that’s now in place and only benefits a few towns who win a grant chosen by the administration, S.W.A.P. would provide annual funding to all municipalities in the state via a fair and transparent formula similar to the CHIPs program. It would allow them to identify and swap out old, deteriorating pipes, water mains and gas lines to better maintain the state’s infrastructure.
In addition to the present grants program, we’d like to see the state budget allocate funding to implement the S.W.A.P. program.
Several municipalities have expressed support for S.W.A.P. and passed resolutions, including Saratoga County, Troy and the towns of Clifton Park, Ballston, Glenville, Halfmoon, Malta, East Greenbush and Corinth.
Small towns and villages simply do not have the financial and human resources to be continually repairing and replacing sewer systems and old pipes. That’s why I’m going to be strongly advocating to the governor and legislative leaders for passage of S.W.A.P., either on its own or through funding in this year’s state budget.
It’s time to get serious about creating this CHIPS-like program. The longer we wait, the worse it will get and the more lives and tax dollars could potentially be negatively impacted when breaks occur.
Replicating the success of the CHIPS program on the state level will allow local governments to S.W.A.P.-out deteriorating drinking water, storm water, gas lines, sanitary sewer, water towers and dams infrastructure makes sense because an ounce of prevention now can save tax dollars later and prevent costly breaks.