Municipal Finance and Construction Element
How Clean Water Projects Are Prioritized For Funding
To decide which clean water projects get funded, a priority system was created. The system, which was first developed in 1982, is constantly evolving. Historically, the state's highest priority was to upgrade primary treatment plants to achieve secondary levels, thereby significantly reducing pollutant discharges. With the elimination of primary facilities in New Jersey, the primary discharge category has been deleted from the priority system-a major milestone that signals progress is being made under the state's financing programs. The state's highest priority wastewater needs now include combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and major pipe rehabilitation to stop discharges of raw sewage. These types of problems are frequently found in older urban areas, where pollution impacts streams and rivers near large population centers and where the cost to correct these problems is a serious concern. Priority is also placed on projects in coastal areas, where pollution impacts from outdated sewage treatment and conveyance systems can harm the shore environment and the tourism industry.
To prioritize wastewater projects under the Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program, the division uses a point system, which ranks projects based on the nature of the wastewater problem. In addition, projects discharging to surface waters receive points that reflect the existing uses of the waterway. These uses include drinking water supplies, boating, fishing, swimming, and water used for industrial or agricultural purposes. The point values reflect the relative priority of the water uses, with drinking water and recreational uses being the highest priorities. Points are also given to projects that would eliminate failing septic systems, a public health threat.
Finally, projects receive points that correlate with an area's existing water quality when compared with the Department's water quality standards. The more polluted an area is, the higher the ranking points it receives.
After a project's discharge, water use, and water quality points have been compiled, it is placed on a priority list in rank order. In the case of a tie, areas designated by the State Planning Commission receive highest priority and, if still tied, the higher priority is given to the project that serves the greater number of people.
Funding from the Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program is made available to projects in the order they appear on the list. While a project's rank is important, a lower ranked project may still be able to secure financing if it meets planning, design, and loan application dates, or, if sufficient monies are not available, it may be able to receive "pre-award approval" to start construction and receive loans for reimbursement of costs in a future year.
How Drinking Water Projects Are Prioritized For Funding
The drinking water priority system reflects Congress's intent that States must give maximum priority to
- projects needed for Safe Drinking Water Act compliance,
- projects that provide the greatest protection to public health, and
- projects which assist systems most in need on a per household basis. States must develop a priority list that reflects this intent and to fund projects in this order, to the maximum extent practicable.
The principal elements of the Priority System are: compliance and public health criteria, approved drinking water infrastructure plan, conformance with the New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment Plan, and affordability. In the case of a tie, projects are assigned points based on the permanent population of the water system area.
Priority points are based upon several different subject categories. However, to be eligible for ranking, a project scope must include the actual repair, rehabilitation, correction of a problem, or an improvement clearly related to compliance and public health criteria. Any points assigned from the remaining categories are added to the points received
in this category.
Due to the annual addition of new projects to the Project Priority List, or to periodic revisions to the Priority System, individual project rankings may change annually. Projects including multiple elements, are listed separately by the elements involved, with priority points being assigned for each element.
A prospective applicant must notify the Department of any changes to project scope or any other circumstance that may affect the calculation of priority points. The Department would then recalculate, if appropriate, the prospective applicant's ranking utilizing the new information submitted and revise the priority ranking accordingly.
Funding from the Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program is made available to projects in the order they appear on the priority list. While a project's rank is important, a lower ranked project may still be able to secure financing if it meets planning, design, and loan application dates. If sufficient monies are not available, it may be able to receive 'pre-award' approval to start construction and receive loans for reimbursement of costs in a future year.