Guest Column | May 4, 2017

RFI Signals Growing Interest In Water-Related P3s As Part Of Federal Infrastructure Plan

By Mary Scott Nabers

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The low-level buzz surrounding the $1-trillion Trump administration infrastructure plan is starting to swirl again, and private-sector firms interested in participating in water industry-related projects should pay close attention.

Many government contractors, potential partners, and investors in public-private partnerships (P3s/PPPs) are heartened by the very recent release of a request for information (RFI) by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. The fact that this agency is seeking feedback from the private sector regarding use of P3s for water projects could be an indicator of growing interest by the federal government. It also signals the federal government’s confidence in P3s/PPPs as a way of completing large water projects.

Reclamation also is planning a forum on May 9 in Denver to introduce potential public and private partners to alternative financing solutions like P3s. Agency officials plan to discuss projects that could benefit from alternative financing and help meet increasing infrastructure demands without depending solely on federal funding. The Department of Commerce, through its Select USA division, is also planning a Public-Private Sector Symposium in June in Washington, D.C.  The purpose of the symposium is to help public officials, economic development organizations, and elected officials better understand the various types of P3 engagements and to have experts on hand to answer questions and discuss “best practices.”  The National Governor’s Association will be partnering with the Select USA team to ensure a successful symposium.

While waiting for the new administration to roll out President Trump’s long-promised infrastructure plan, it is heartening to many to see federal agencies begin to promote private investment in public projects.

The RFI from the Bureau of Reclamation is for five specific Reclamation projects in four states — Washington, New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. Project objectives include, but are not limited to, water supply, water distribution, and salinity management. Officials note that these are only a sampling of the types of projects that could lend themselves to alternative financing and private-sector investment. If response to the RFI is good, additional projects could be identified and qualified. Parties interested in design, construction, financing, and/or maintenance opportunities are invited to respond. The deadline for submitting a response to the RFI is scheduled for June 14. The RFI is posted at www.fedbizopps.gov, number R17PS00874.

Early discussions about how the Trump administration plans to leverage private-sector funds as part of an infrastructure plan were focused on transportation infrastructure. Many have aggressively urged expanding the focus to include other parts of the nation’s infrastructure, especially water projects. This appears to be a positive sign and if there is great response, it’s possible to see water infrastructure ranked higher on the administration’s priority list of projects.

Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S.

Image credit: "Money, Money, Money, Money (Day 22 of 50)" Austin Kirk © 2015 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/