The Washington DC Infrastructure Academy, a training program announced by Mayor Muriel Bowser, endorsed by local area utilities such as DC Water, PEPCO, and Washington Gas (all NUCA of DC Members!), is starting several new classes that have the potential to benefit DC area Utility Contractors.

A CDL Drivers class is beginning January 22 with 20 registered students.  The last class had a 90% graduation rate, with 10/20 students obtaining their CDL license, so the pool of trained CDL drivers is growing!  NUCA of DC representatives are in discussions with DCIA representatives to develop ways to help these graduates get the crucial on-the-job experience that is needed for our members to be able to hire these drivers.

Similarly, TWO auto mechanics courses will be taking place this training period, with one having already started and one starting on January 28.

A PEPCO-endorsed electrical worker course will be starting on February 4, and lasting 22 weeks.  The graduates of this course will be trained in both underground and overhead electrical work.

Future courses under development include water and gas pipefitting.

This week, the House is set to vote on a standalone bill to fund the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – a bill that passed both chambers of Congress last Summer. This bill, which largely mirrors the Senate-passed bill, will reopen our national parks and provide important funding for water infrastructure and environmental cleanup programs.

As our nation’s wastewater infrastructure faces an estimated $271 billion deficit to meet current and future demands over the next 20 years and an estimated $1 trillion is necessary to maintain and expand service to meet drinking water demands over the next 25 years, the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) are key federal programs that support investments in local water systems. These programs are funded at nearly $1.694 billion, $1.164 billion and $63 billion respectively—representing level funding compared to FY18—in the bill.

While the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 provided key policy wins for water infrastructure, the appropriations process is where Congress makes good on its authorization priorities. The previous water resources bill, passed in 2016, authorized several new grant programs addressing disadvantaged communities and lead testing and remediation. These programs would receive much-needed funding under the Interior-EPA appropriations bill.

NLC’s Budget Tracker provides a breakdown of other programs funded in the Interior-EPA appropriations bill. With DOI and EPA shut down, there is no new money for these vital water infrastructure programs and other programs such as Brownfields, Superfund and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, that cities, towns and villages rely on.

As the partial government shutdown nears three weeks, the impacts on our nation’s water infrastructure, environment and public lands is hitting communities nationwide. Aside from the lack of new funding, environmental cleanups are stalled (except in cases where there is an imminent threat to public health) or lack EPA oversight, and permits are delayed.

While 47 of the 50 states operate their own National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting programs, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia and territories rely on EPA to issue permits for a variety of water pollution discharges that, if not regulated, will negatively impact the health of our nation’s waterways. Of course, the shutdown is not a permission slip for unregulated or unpermitted discharges, but it means that projects cannot move forward.

Much has been reported in the media about the impact of shutting down our national parks. Rightly so, because national parks contribute significantly to our national economy and have a particular importance for “gateway communities” that have tourism-based economies that almost solely depend on neighboring major federal parks and monuments. In 2017, 331 million park visitors nationwide spent $18.2 billion in national parks, which supported 306,000 jobs, $11.9 billion in labor income, and generated a total of $35.8 billion in economic output for the national economy.

The National Park Service has started using visitor fees to clean bathrooms, pick up garbage, maintain roads, boost law enforcement and emergency operations, and staff some entrances. These fees are typically used to improve the quality of visitor experience at the parks, rather than pay for basic maintenance. In DC and communities across the country, local governments and nonprofits have been footing the bill for cleanup at national parks.

Finally, the partial government shutdown is impacting the Trump Administration’s own policy agenda toward repealing and revising various Obama Administration rulemakings. For example, EPA’s efforts to revise Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks are on hold as employees charged with reading comments and revising text are on furlough.

Additionally, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps announced that they will postpone the planned Jan. 23 public hearing on the proposed new “Waters of the U.S.” definition until after appropriations have passed to fund EPA. Publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register is also postponed.

A significant delay in the Agency’s work on these rulemakings could affect the long-term timeframe, pushing the schedule for final rules into next year, and any potential litigation into the next administration

The current partial government shutdown is now the longest in modern history, and as it enters its 28th day, its impacts are increasing. This is a brief update on the situation, what lawmakers have done, and how this all might be resolved.

The shutdown has already affected infrastructure projects. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) delayed releasing funding for the Federal-Aid Highway Program, and as a result, Oklahoma delayed bids for some new projects. While FHWA released additional funding shortly after these reports surfaced, there is still a good deal of uncertainty for state transportation agencies that are trying to plan out their projects.

In addition to the consequences the shutdown is having on construction and infrastructure, there are also concerns about the effect it may have on the economy more broadly. The White House’s Council of Economic Advisers has revised their estimates and found that the shutdown is having a larger impact on the economy than they initially anticipated. Other economists have expressed concerns that a prolonged shutdown could push the economy toward a recession. This is not to say that the shutdown as it stands now will cause a recession, but that when combined with other factors, a protracted shutdown could certainly have a negative impact.

The shutdown is also taking Congress’ time and attention away from other priorities, including infrastructure. The longer the shutdown remains unresolved, the longer it will take for Congress to move on to other issues.

Our elected political representatives – both congressional and executive – remain dug in to their positions. Trump has insisted that $5.7 billion for border wall funding be included in any spending legislation and many Congressional Republicans have stood with him on this request. Congressional Democrats have remained united against Trump’s demand.

It’s not clear how the impasse will end. Negotiations between Congressional leadership and the President are essentially non-existent. There was a bipartisan group of Senators that was trying to find an agreement to temporarily reopen the government so that border security could be considered in Congress, but these efforts failed. This week, the House again passed legislation to temporarily fund and reopen the government, but the Senate refuses to take up this legislation.

It seems likely that the shutdown will only end when it has a significant impact on Americans, with the most likely candidate being related to something like air travel delays or cancellations. TSA agents continue to be responsible for conducting airport security, even though they had their first missed paycheck last Friday the 11th. Some agents have begun to call out because they are unable to afford transportation or childcare while they are required to work without pay. The more disruptions the shutdown causes, the more Americans will feel its effects, and Congress and the White House could really feel pressure to make a deal.

We will continue to keep you updated on the shutdown and any effects we are seeing on our industry.

DC Water is embracing a new set of six core values and will immediately move towards reshaping itself to operate more streamlined and businesslike under a strategic plan and realignment announced by Chief Executive Officer David L. Gadis.
Under the new plan, called The Blueprint, DC Water will better meet future challenges, improve service to customers and support One DC Water – known as Team Blue, said Mr. Gadis.
“This new blueprint is straightforward and sensible and it will get our organization to a better place to serve our customers,” said Mr. Gadis. “We’re going to do more to help customers and improve their experience interacting with the water authority.”
Under The Blueprint released by Mr. Gadis, DC Water will drill down on six strategic program areas as part of its service delivery. They are: Driving Performance, the Employee Experience, Leveraging Technology, Operational Safety, Customer Affordability and Resilience & Readiness. At the heart of delivering on those broad services will be six distinct values that DC Water is embracing authority-wide: Accountability, Trust, Teamwork, Customer Focus, Safety and Well-being. DC Water employees also helped craft a new vision statement for the organization: We will be known for superior service, ingenuity and stewardship to advance the health and well-being of our diverse workforce and communities.
Today’s announcement was preceded by a top-level meeting of DC Water executives to review and discuss the new plan, as well as to lay out a plan for implementing it. Also, Mr. Gadis announced that he’s refined the leadership structure at DC Water to generate more focus on the customer experience from start to finish, and to reduce the number of departments to eliminate the silo effect.
Under the new organizational structure, DC Water will be streamlined into seven separate departments; Administrative Services, Finance & Procurement, People & Talent, Performance, Customer Experience, Legal Affairs, and Operations and Engineering. Most of that staff will work out of the consolidated new DC Water administrative building, which sits next to the historic main District pumping station on O Street, SE near the Nationals ballpark. More news on that structure is coming this winter.
“Make no mistake, DC Water will continue to be the best utility in the world. But by realigning ourselves we will be more unified, deliver a better customer experience and provide the best environment for our employees,” added Mr. Gadis before concluding: “This new organizational structure will foster a collaborative environment – One DC Water! – for driving performance and improving employee engagement.”