The O.B. Curtis Water Plant is seen during United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan's tour stop in Ridgeland, Miss., Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. Credit: Eric Shelton/Clarion Ledger

A massive federal spending bill slated to be voted on this week includes $600 million for work on the beleaguered City of Jackson water system.

Congress is expected to vote this week on the $1.7 trillion spending bill that will avert a pending government shutdown and continue funding federal agencies through late 2023.

Little information was available Tuesday about the earmark for the City of Jackson. But tucked inside of the 4,155-page bill are appropriations of $150 million in one section and $450 million in another section in areas where “the president declared an emergency in August for fiscal year 2022.”

In August, President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency as did Gov. Tate Reeves after customers in the Jackson Water System lost water pressure.

The loss of water pressure and perennial boil water notices were caused by long-term problems with the system. Those problems were exacerbated by flooding on the Ross Barnett Reservoir, which is the primary source of the city’s water.

The 180,000-customer system is plagued with numerous problems, including aging pipes that often freeze and burst during extreme cold snaps. In February 2021 during a prolonged cold period, most of Jackson lost water pressure for multiple weeks.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said earlier this week the extreme cold temperatures expected later this week could cause problems for the city’s water system, though, progress has been made in winterizing the O.B. Curtis Treatment Plant that treats most of the water delivered to the system’s customers.

The spending bill says the funds allocated for work on the water system would be administered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Earlier this month, a federal judge approved an order for the U.S. Department of Justice to step in and oversee the troubled system. A third-party administrator has been appointed to oversee the system as part of the agreement.

Jordan Downs, chief of staff for 3rd District Rep. Michael Guest, who represent a portion of Jackson, confirmed that the money was placed in the spending bill at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Rep. Bennie Thompson of the 2nd District, who represents a large portion of Jackson, has been vocal in advocating for funds for the water system. He said $150 million of the total is for technical assistance and $450 million is for capital projects.

“I look forward to voting for the complete omnibus package,” said Thompson in a statement. “I am proud to support the $600 million that will be included … to help Jackson. Jackson also will be receiving additional funding from the omnibus bill.”

Sen. Roger Wicker said he intends to vote for the proposal. In addition to the funds for the city of Jackson, the Mississippi Republican said it provides money for many other infrastructure needs across the state.

“This legislation fully funds our National Defense Authorization Act while cutting the president’s proposed increase in domestic spending by 50%,” he said in a statement.” It represents the best possible opportunity to end this budget stalemate…  and get our military men and women the resources they need to win.”

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.

Julia, a Louisiana native, covers K-12 education. She previously served as an investigative intern with Mississippi Today helping cover the welfare scandal. She is a 2021 graduate of the University of Mississippi, where she studied journalism and public policy and was a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She has also been published in The New York Times and the Clarion-Ledger.