A Senate committee gave its stamp of approval this week to legislation that would create a federal loan and loan guarantee program for water infrastructure that could augment bond financing and public private partnerships.

The Water Resources Development Act of 2013, sponsored by Environment and Public Works Committee chairman Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and ranking minority member Sen. David Vitter, R-La., breezed through the panel by unanimous vote. The legislation contains a five-year $250 million Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act, modeled on the more highway-oriented and much larger Transportation Infrastructure and Financing Innovation Act.

The program would be administered by the Environmental Protection Agency and could be used for water, wastewater, and flood control projects, among others. Loan recipients could be state and local governments, state finance agencies, certain private entities, and public-private partnerships.

"It is a great day for the American people, as WRDA is critical for flood control, port commerce, safe drinking water and wastewater infrastructure," Boxer said.

"WRDA is one of the most important and impressive bipartisan bills to come out of our committee, and I thank Chairman Boxer for her leadership getting this done so efficiently," said Vitter.

The bill's total cost is not yet known, but it is expected it might get to the floor in early summer. The House has not yet released its own WRDA bill, though House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., has said it is a priority.

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