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Voices. Knowledge. Solutions.

Transformative Infrastructure Investment

By Bonnie Ammons, Executive Director, SC Rural Infrastructure Authority 

There is an old saying that nothing is permanent in life except change. In the past few years, we have had to adjust our daily lives to adapt to a different environment. Winston Churchill once said, “to change is to improve.” This philosophy of change and improvement is what the SC Infrastructure Investment Program is all about. 

The SC General Assembly allocated approximately $2.5 billion of State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to address a wide range of critical capital improvement needs including roads, water, wastewater, stormwater, broadband, and health. These funds offered a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to make a significant investment in the future of South Carolina.

A large proportion of this funding was allocated to the SC Rural Infrastructure Authority for infrastructure improvements that would strengthen critical services for residents and businesses across the state, create more resilient communities, and build capacity to support future opportunities for growth and economic development. Thus, a competitive grant program for local governments as well as public water and sewer utilities was established with a focus on addressing priority infrastructure needs that could have a transformative impact. The SC Infrastructure Investment Program, or SCIIP, was designed to address diverse infrastructure concerns within large and small communities and both urban and rural areas throughout the state.  

This unique funding opportunity generated over 300 applications totaling nearly $2 billion for drinking water, sanitary sewer and stormwater drainage improvement projects. The projects ranged from addressing critical but aging infrastructure, to improvements in distribution and collection lines and pumping stations, to upgrades and modernization of storage and treatment facilities, all designed with the future in mind. 

For example, a number of applications proposed to use SCIIP funds to address improvements included on their Water System Capital Improvement Plan designed to keep pace with changing regulations, an aging system and growing population. Often, this plan may include rehabilitation or replacement of outdated cast iron, asbestos cement and galvanized water pipes, as well as improve the storage and hydraulic capacity of elevated storage tanks and booster pump stations. 

One of the key program objectives was to encourage greater planning and sustainability. Developing collaborative relationships among nearby utilities can be a cost-effective way to operate more sustainably. Sometimes the proposals involved an interconnection of two systems and improvements necessary to assume ownership and operation of a less viable system. Such improvements would improve the reliability of the clean drinking water supply for customers. 

Infrastructure touches people’s lives in many ways. In addition to guarding public health and protecting the environment, it serves as a building block for economic investment.  Recognizing this, some proposed projects plan to address needs that would benefit existing residents, while also provide capacity for planned industrial development that would spur job creation, capital investment and new growth opportunities.

By improving the quality of life for residents now, with an eye toward investing in infrastructure needed to support new opportunities in the future, this funding will provide a unique opportunity to make a transformational impact for generations to come.

As of April, RIA was awaiting action by the General Assembly to allocate an additional $586 million for applications submitted by January 1, 2023. The RIA postponed its planned first-quarter announcement of projects until the additional funding has been approved. 

RIA serves as a partner to communities implementing projects that will be funded by the SCIIP program. While there are several federal requirements including an expenditure deadline of December 31, 2026, our staff is available to help ensure these projects are implemented in a timely manner.

For more information or assistance, visit the SC Rural Infrastructure Authority.