On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) — also called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) — a once-in-a-generation investment in American infrastructure intended to make the economy more sustainable, resilient, and just. Within the BIL, ARC was allocated $1 billion dollars over five years, or $200 million annually, starting in Fiscal Year 2022.
Building Appalachia’s infrastructure has been an ARC investment priority for over 58 years, and the funding provided through the BIL has allowed ARC to enhance our support for critical projects. This includes helping the City of Hindman, Kentucky overcome both aging infrastructure and economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overcoming Pandemic-Related Setbacks
Hindman, a small city in Knott County, is home to around 800 residents and well-known Appalachian organizations including Hindman Settlement School and ARC INSPIRE partner, Troublesome Creek Stringed Instrument Company. The area is also considered economically distressed and has been significantly impacted by the coal industry’s downturn.
In 2018, Hindman’s aging sewer system – which was constructed in the mid 1950s – showed high levels of inflow and infiltration (I&I) and failed to meet discharge permit requirements. With the support of the Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD), ARC awarded Hindman $2 million to conduct a flow study and make repairs to its wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), seven lift stations, and critical sections of sewer line serving 60 businesses and 460 households. Unfortunately, like countless other communities beginning infrastructure projects between 2018 and 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused supply-chain cost increases at just the wrong time.
“Large construction projects can sometimes take 2-3 years to get to construction after environmental review, permitting, and design,” says Jennifer McIntosh, Associate Director of Community & Economic Development with KRADD. “Hindman was able to complete some repairs, but the remaining bids came back at 30-35% over what we originally thought. Newer projects are not having as many issues as engineers adapt to the higher costs, but the projects that started at or before COVID are the ones having issues.”
Hindman ultimately chose to forgo the flow study and sewer line repairs, and instead address urgent issues with their WWTP and lift stations.
Completing Upgrades with BIL Funding
After completing this initial work, Hindman approached ARC and our state partner, the Kentucky Department for Local Government, for additional support. Due in part to the additional $5.5 million BIL allowed ARC to allocate for Kentucky in 2022, Hindman received another grant of $175,000 to address smaller activities, including the flow study and sewer line repairs. The completion of these projects has helped lower maintenance and operational costs, reduce permit violations, and improve sewer service to the entire Hindman community.
“Thankfully, we’ve seen a great response from ARC and other agencies about cost overruns. Hopefully these costs will go back down, especially in our mountainous area where projects already cost more to complete,” said McIntosh. “[Furthermore], most of our communities can’t afford high loans and need to keep water and sewer rates affordable for households with limited income. Without the grant funding we receive, many communities in our area couldn’t complete these projects at all.”
ARC is grateful to the Biden-Harris Administration for their historic investment to bolster infrastructure in America, which has allowed us to support important projects across Appalachia. Learn more about the BIL here.