The state of Washington's Department of Ecology has announced plans to put a higher priority on water management and to focus on clean water supply in the state, by selecting a group of 72 projects that will receive a total of nearly $162 million in grants and loans.

The money will be available to the chosen projects after the beginning of the next fiscal year starting on July 1, 2013 and will aim to facilitate the implementation of projects intended to protect clean water and create jobs. According to estimates from state financial experts, 11 jobs are created for every $1 million spent on construction and design funding in Washington. Provided that the entire sum available to projects is successfully used, up to 1,782 jobs, half of them in local construction, could be created.

Maia Bellon, director of the state Department of Ecology, said that the funding aims to take care of Washington waters and Puget Sound, while at the same time it intends to boost the local economy by creating jobs.

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The 72 projects that are set to benefit from the funding cover a wide range of works, such as upgrading and expanding sewer plants and collection systems, improving septic systems and building and maintaining water re-use facilities. The money will also be used for water protection and various cleanup projects, stormwater projects, stream-side restoration projects and clean water education projects, the Department of Ecology explained.

The funding is a combination of dedicated state and federal money. Approximately $135 million comes from the Washington State Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund, which is a low interest rate loan program funded with a combination of federal grant, state match, and principal and interest repayments. A further $25 million has been granted by the Washington Centennial Clean Water Program, funded by state bonds. Some $1.6 million is being provided by the federal grant-funded Clean Water Section 319 Nonpoint Source Fund.

The shortlisted projects have been selected because of their top-priority status. Overall, the state Department of Ecology received 88 applications but 13 of them were not awarded enough points in the ranking system and the other proposals were ineligible for funding.

Among the approved proposals are 39 schemes intended to solve non-point source pollution — pollution that comes from hard-to-trace sources and is carried into downstream waters by runoff. There were also 10 projects for the construction of wastewater plants in non-hardship communities. Other projects included eight applications for the construction of stormwater facilities, seven projects for planning/design of wastewater or stormwater facilities and five projects for wastewater treatment plant construction in communities that were entitled to receive a financial hardship status. This allows them to receive grants, forgivable principal loans, which do not need to be paid back, and loans with interest rates as low as zero percent. The list of proposals was completed by two onsite sewage system repair and replacement projects and completion of the 20-year Spokane County/City extended payment grant.