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Oct 25, 2023

Water Wins in North Carolina's State Budget

Sponsored Content provided by Jennifer Adams - Chairwoman, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority

Providing water and sewer services to more than 200,000 people in New Hanover County is a massive undertaking. 

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) operates nearly $1 billion worth of infrastructure, including our four state-of-the-art treatment plants, 154 wastewater pump stations, 8,000 fire hydrants, and the 2,100-plus miles of water and sewer mains running throughout our community. Our 10-year Capital Improvements Plan totals $648.4 million, with three out every four dollars going toward projects to repair or replace aging infrastructure. 

As a public, not-for-profit utility, CFPUA is almost entirely ratepayer-funded. That means the costs of maintaining these critical water and sewer systems – and making the investments to ensure they can meet the needs of growing community – can impact the rates CFPUA charges customers. To minimize the cost burdens on our customers, CFPUA works closely with legislators at the state and federal levels to secure outside funding sources whenever possible. 

We were delighted that the 2023 Appropriations Act recently approved by the N.C. General Assembly includes $35 million for CFPUA infrastructure projects, as well as tens of millions more in funding to our regional partners that will directly benefit CFPUA customers. This funding is the culmination of dedicated work by our region’s legislative delegation on behalf of their constituents, most of whom are CFPUA customers. 

First, the State Budget allocates $18 million to CFPUA for drinking water extensions to unserved communities in New Hanover County impacted by PFAS. This funding will allow us to advance our ongoing work with New Hanover County to connect residents currently served by private groundwater wells to CFPUA water services. I encourage you to learn more about that project in my October WilmingtonBiz Insights column

CFPUA was also allocated $17 million to support a potential water and sewer consolidation with the Town of Wrightsville Beach. In 2022, CFPUA and Wrightsville Beach entered into an agreement for a feasibility and rates study on a systems consolidation. Should consolidation be approved by both our Boards, as well as CFPUA’s chartering organizations, the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County, CFPUA would take over operations of Wrightsville Beach’s water and sewer systems and complete millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements. The State Budget allocated another $8 million directly to Wrightsville Beach for the potential consolidation.
 
A consolidation would not only benefit Wrightsville Beach residents, but CFPUA’s existing customers, as well. As CFPUA’s customer base expands, the costs of improvement projects are shared among a larger group, thereby lessening the impact of potential rate increases on our customers. It is important to note that the cost of the potential consolidation is also not borne by CFPUA’s existing customers, but by the Town of Wrightsville Beach.

Finally, our partners at Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority (LCFWASA) also received $25 million to complete a raw water line supporting CFPUA and other regional utilities. Once completed, this line will run from the Kings Bluff Pump Station on the Cape Fear River and parallel the existing LCFWASA raw water line that supplies Brunswick County, CFPUA, Pender County, and several local industrial customers. This 54-inch-diameter main will not only increase utilities’ raw water capacity, but ensure local homes and businesses continue to receive water in the event of a break or major damage to the existing main. 

Our region’s delegation to the State Legislature, led by Budget Co-Chair Sen. Michael Lee, kept CFPUA and our customers front-of-mind this budget session. We are deeply grateful for Sen. Lee’s work to identify funding opportunities for CFPUA and LCFWASA, and to Rep. Ted Davis, Jr., whose district includes Wrightsville Beach, for helping secure the consolidation funding. I also want to give credit to CFPUA Board Vice-Chairman Deans Hackney, who was instrumental in getting the $18 million allocation for drinking water extensions. Their work helped earmark at least $60 million in funding that will directly support CFPUA’s water systems. 

Other projects in the State budget will benefit CFPUA’s customers, including $15 million to our partners at New Hanover County to build water and sewer infrastructure for their Blue Clay Business Park project. We were pleased to see $4 million allocated to the North Carolina Collaboratory for its ongoing PFAS research in the Cape Fear River Basin.

Taken together, these investments in our region will strengthen water systems for generations, bringing clean, reliable water to more people, supporting our economy, and enhancing our quality of life. We are thankful to have representation in Raleigh that is focused on the future of water infrastructure.

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