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Highway help, drought defense on the way with new infrastructure deal
infrastructure bill signing
Turlock Congressman Josh Harder was on hand at the White House on Monday for the signing of the new $1 trillion infrastructure bill (Photo contributed).

Congressman Josh Harder was a part of the crowd gathered on the White House lawn Monday to see President Joe Biden sign the $1 trillion infrastructure bill — a bipartisan deal which saw the Turlock representative play a key role in securing funds for projects which will benefit the Valley. 

The new influx of cash for the country’s roads, water storage, internet capabilities and more saw support from both sides of the aisle, with the plan receiving support from 19 Senate Republicans and 13 House Republicans. Harder, a Democrat, called the bill “a huge victory for common sense” and said it was an effort which saw both the right and left compromise on investments they believed in. 

The spending plan won’t increase taxes, he added, and will benefit District 10 through a variety of means. 

“Every person that I’ve talked to in Turlock has told me that to invest in our infrastructure, we need to invest in upgrading Highway 99, we need to make sure we’re focusing on [State Route] 132’s east and west corridor and we need to make sure that we’re finally building new water projects. That’s exactly what this bill is trying to fix,” Harder said. 

“There’s a huge difference between wasting a whole bunch of money on a bridge to nowhere that's not actually going to do anything, and actually building a new water reservoir that's not only going to create thousands of local jobs, but it's also going to make sure that we can safeguard our economy for decades.”

The three main components of the bill which will most benefit both Turlock and the Central Valley as a whole are: roads and bridges, water infrastructure and wildfire fighting and prevention. While there aren’t individual names of projects listed as part of the bill, the Congressman is confident that money included in those three pots will reach the local community. 

Harder played a pivotal part in securing $8.3 billion for water projects in the west, $1.15 billion of which is dedicated purely to storage. Harder urged the Secretary of the Interior to include in her list of recommended Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act surface storage projects, and she recommended $15 million for the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir in Patterson. 

As early as March, Harder was advocating for water storage funding to be included in the infrastructure bill and even penned a bipartisan letter with Republican Rep. David Valadao encouraging House and Senate leaders to do so. 

The bill also includes $115 billion to help fix roads and bridges; funding for various projects is expected to pour into the local community immediately. Wildfire fighting efforts will also receive $3.4 billion in support through the infrastructure package and another $5.75 billion will go toward natural resource-related infrastructure, including fire management and restoration.

“It was a long time coming...but in the end, we got a tremendous bipartisan vote in the House and the Senate. This bill would not have come along without my Republican colleagues supporting it across the country,” Harder said. “My hope is that that means two things: one, is it makes sure that this is a bill that was vetted by folks all across the ideological spectrum, and second, hopefully this is a blueprint for what working together actually looks like.”

The bill marks the first time in over 20 years that the United States is investing more into infrastructure than China, and with projects like the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir underway, Harder believes there could be more progress in the decades to come. 

“I think we'll have to see and we'll have to make sure that this money is well used, and if we have to come back and invest more, we can evaluate that when the time comes,” Harder said. “...I think this is going to do a lot of good.”