The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection walked back what local leaders thought was a $17 million grant for sewer construction in the beach communities, instead saying that the agency is looking at a variety of federal funding options for the project.
“Rather than offer $17M, as the [CT Examiner] headline indicates, DEEP conveyed a commitment to evaluate funding options for Old Lyme by exploring, and hopefully leveraging, potential new federal funding opportunities afforded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL),” wrote DEEP spokesman Paul Copleman, in an email to CT Examiner on Tuesday.
“If such funds are available, DEEP still needs to determine how and if such potential funding options could work together with Clean Water Funding and how much additional funding could be made available,” wrote Copleman.
Graham Stevens, chief of water protection and land reuse at DEEP, told CT Examiner that “the state is looking to find out if there’s an opportunity to provide additional subsidy to this project to keep the cost under control for residents and accomplish our decade-long endeavor of trying to protect the environment and ensure the long term economic sustainability for these communities.”
He said part of the purpose of Friday’s meeting — from which the press was excluded — was to share that “we’re looking at all the options that we can think of and wanted to check in to make sure [the beach communities] would be interested if we were to be successful.”
“We wanted to let them know that we haven’t forgotten about their issues and that we’re working hard to try to, you know, work together with them to find a solution that works for everyone,” he said.
But Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Saybrook, who attended DEEP’s Friday meeting by zoom, told CT Examiner that DEEP offered a “potentially forgivable loan” of an additional 25% of project costs under the state’s Clean Water Funds program. Under the program, the sewer project already qualifies for a 25% grant and a 75% loan at 2% interest for 20 years.
“It sounded to me like DEEP committed to 25%, which they estimated with $17 million as the highest number, so not necessarily $17 million,” he said. “And there has to be some sort of referendum – some entity has to be willing to take that on – because it’s not a grant, it’s a loan, and it’s potentially a forgivable loan and I’m sure there has to be certain obligations met for it to be forgivable.”
With the additional 25% would bring coverage of the project to 50%, which would potentially bring the price of the project for each homeowner to pre-pandemic levels, Carney said. But, he said, there are many, many steps to the funding process.
“I just want to make it clear – nothing is a done deal. I don’t want anybody to think, oh, we’re definitely getting this money,” he said.
Carney said it was important that DEEP come to Old Lyme to explain to residents and property owners exactly how the funding will work.
“I want to make sure that everybody fully understands from the horse’s mouth what is going on,” Carney said.