Edwards signs bill to help water districts

Staff Reports

BATON ROUGE -- Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law that will make it easier for small water districts to receive help on system projects.

House Bill 97 by state Rep. Jeremy LaCombe, D-Fordoche, will allow for rural water districts to do capital outlay projects through the legislature without having to put up the 25 percent match.

The legislation applies to water districts with under 1,250 customers.

The bill will benefit rural towns all across the state, said LaCombe, now in his second year as representative.

His legislation comes to the forefront when many rural companies have struggled to comply with federal standards due to poor infrastructure.

“A crumbling infrastructure is one of the biggest things many small towns face today,” LaCombe said. “They have old pumps, towers and lines that need to be fixed, and they don’t have the ability to generate the revenue to make those upgrades to the infrastructure.”

Some small water systems would have to ante up as much as $500,000 on their matching portion for grants – an amount most do not have.

“It was my top priority to get the bill passed, and Gov. Edwards signed it, so we’re working to get projects in place to get rural areas better availability for improved drinking water,” he said. “A lot of community water systems do not have ability to come up with that type of revenue.

“When small communities face a potentially troubling water issue, it’s up to us to put a project together and put their worries to ease,” LaCombe said.

Numerous rural water systems across Louisiana have already struggled to stay in compliance. The Town of Clinton last month agreed to grant control of the town’s water system to East Feliciana Rural Water System Inc., a cooperative owned by its customers.

The town put the cooperative in control of the system at the urging of state health officials to bring the drinking water supply in compliance with health regulations.