WLBT-TV Jackson

Federal legislation to help Jackson address water woes referred to Senate committee

By Anthony Warren

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A bill that would redirect millions of dollars to the city of Jackson to help it address its water system needs will likely be added on to a larger infrastructure bill, so says an official with Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s office.

In March, Hyde-Smith introduced S. 755, or the Emergency Water Infrastructure Act.

Among other things, the bill would give Jackson access to at least $72 million in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Economic Development Agency funds to help rebuild its water system following the February winter storms.

Storms plowed through the state in February, shutting down roads and crippling municipal water systems.

Some residents in the capital city were without water for a month after freezing temperatures significantly slowed down water production at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant.

In response to the crisis, Sen. Hyde-Smith introduced a bill that would direct tens of millions in federal funding to the city, including $47 million through the corps’ Section 219 program, no less than $25 million from the EDA Economic Adjustment Assistance grants program and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I cannot sit back and watch Jackson schools, businesses and residents go without water,” Hyde-Smith said. “Providing safe and reliable drinking water is a local responsibility, but there are federal programs and funds available that can be used to address these types of problems.”

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

That bill, though, will likely not see the light of day as an individual measure. Instead, it will likely be tacked on to larger infrastructure legislation, said Chris Gallegos, communications director for the state’s junior senator.

“It’s very rare for a bill like this to go singularly on its own through the process,” Gallegos said.

He said that Hyde-Smith is working with other lawmakers, including Rep. Bennie Thompson, to find the right vehicle to see the bill through.

“There is a lot of interest in infrastructure bills right now, so there are options floating around.”

Options include the $2.3 trillion plan introduced by President Joe Biden in late March.

However, the president has yet to file his bill and Congress will likely introduce legislation of its own to counter the Biden plan, Gallegos said.