At last week’s Floodplain Management Association meeting in Reno, Nevada, the two of us planned and participated in a panel discussion on federal funding for flood control projects under the Trump administration.  Attendees enjoyed a discussion on federal funding options for local entities that are ready to carry out a flood control project (or any water infrastructure project, really), how some California agencies are strategizing to obtain such funding, and importantly, a perspective from a key staff member at the President’s Office of Management and Budget, which sets and implements the President’s policy and budget.

Andrea Clark served as moderator for the panel.  The first panelist was Scott Shapiro, who offered background on existing legal pathways to federal funding.  You can view a PDF of his presentation here.  Scott talked about the President’s infrastructure investment plan and noted that while the plan contemplates a change in the traditional federal/non-federal cost share ratio, there is currently no legal authority to make that change.  In light of this reality, Scott discussed the five current options for delivery of federal funds to water infrastructure projects.

Next, Mike Inamine of the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency gave an overview of his agency’s work along the Feather River in Sutter and Butte Counties north of Sacramento, including current efforts to secure federal funding to complete the last piece of that work.  A PDF of Mike’s presentation is here. SBFCA is following a few of the delivery options outlined by Scott, in an effort to maximize its ability to obtain federal funding for an important regional public safety project.

Richard Johnson of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency then offered a similar overview of his agency’s efforts to short up levees around urban Sacramento, which have involved federal funding as well as Corps construction of levees.  A PDF of Rick’s presentation is here. He stressed the importance of a strong partnership with federal agencies in order to successfully obtain federal funding.

Finally, Kelly Colyar, Chief of the Water and Power Branch of the Office of Management and Budget, offered a few observations (not on behalf of OMB, to be clear) regarding overall funding policy for infrastructure projects.  Kelly acknowledged changes in the relationship between the federal government and local entities that began well before the current administration, and she described ongoing efforts within OMB to define the Federal role going forward, consistent with the President’s investment plan priorities, when local entities are often best situated to carry out regionally important projects.  Finally, Kelly gave the audience some context with regard to USACE funding as a small part of a much larger budgetary picture within OMB’s purview and stressed the importance of objective criteria when it comes to funding decisions for specific project.  Kelly also shared that she appreciates non-Federal sponsors approaching OMB with creative ideas of how to handle funding.  So, there may be interesting opportunities for those that understand the landscape and can think creatively.

We look forward to participating in the conference again next year and hopefully sharing some interesting perspectives again.