159G-23. Priority consideration for loan or grant from Wastewater Reserve or Drinking Water Reserve.

The considerations for priority in this section apply to a loan or grant from the Wastewater Reserve or the Drinking Water Reserve. The Division of Water Infrastructure must consider the following items when evaluating applications:

(1) Public necessity. - A project that promotes public health and protects the environment, improves a system that is not in compliance with permit requirements or is under orders from the Department, enables a moratorium to be lifted, or replaces failing septic tanks with a wastewater collection system.

(2) Effect on impaired waters. - A project that improves designated impaired waters of the State.

(3) Efficiency. - A project that achieves efficiencies in meeting the State's water infrastructure needs or reduces vulnerability to drought consistent with Part 2A of Article 21 and Article 38 of Chapter 143 of the General Statutes by one of the following methods:

a. The combination of two or more wastewater or public water systems into a regional wastewater or public water system by merger, consolidation, or another means.

b. Conservation or reuse of water, including bulk water reuse facilities and waterlines to supply reuse water for irrigation and other approved uses.

c. Construction of an interconnection between water systems intended for use in drought or other water shortage emergency.

d. Repair or replacement of leaking waterlines to improve water conservation and efficiency or to prevent contamination.

e. Replacement of meters and installation of new metering systems.

(4) Comprehensive land-use plan. - A project that is located in a city or county that has adopted or has taken significant steps to adopt a comprehensive land-use plan under Article 18 of Chapter 153A of the General Statutes or Article 19 of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes. The existence of a plan has more priority than steps taken to adopt a plan, such as adoption of a zoning ordinance. A plan that exceeds the minimum State standards for protection of water resources has higher priority than one that does not. A project is considered to be located in a city or county if it is located in whole or in part in that unit. A land-use plan is not considered a comprehensive land-use plan unless it has provisions that protect existing water uses and ensure compliance with water quality standards and classifications in all waters of the State affected by the plan.

(5) Flood hazard ordinance. - A project that is located in a city or county that has adopted a flood hazard prevention ordinance under G.S. 143-215.54A. A plan that exceeds the minimum standards under G.S. 143-215.54A for a flood hazard prevention ordinance has higher priority than one that does not. A project is considered to be located in a city or county if it is located in whole or in part in that unit. If no part of the service area of a project is located within the 100-year floodplain, the project has equal consideration under this subdivision as if it were located in a city or county that has adopted a flood hazard prevention ordinance. The most recent maps prepared pursuant to the National Flood Insurance Program or approved by the Department determine whether an area is within the 100-year floodplain.

(6) Sound management. - A project submitted by a local government unit that has demonstrated a willingness and ability to meet its responsibilities through sound fiscal policies and efficient operation and management.

(6a) Asset management plan. - A project submitted by a local government unit with more than 1,000 service connections that has developed and is implementing an asset management plan.

(7) Capital improvement plan. - A project that implements the applicant's capital improvement plan for the wastewater system or public water system it manages, so long as the capital improvement plan sets out the applicant's expected water infrastructure needs for at least 10 years.

(8) Coastal habitat protection. - A project that implements a recommendation of a Coastal Habitat Protection Plan adopted by the Environmental Management Commission, the Coastal Resources Commission, and the Marine Fisheries Commission pursuant to G.S. 143B-279.8. If no part of the service area of a project is located within a county subject to that Plan, the project has equal priority under this subdivision with a project that receives priority under this subdivision.

(9) Affordability. - The relative affordability of a project for a community compared to other communities in North Carolina.

(10) Merger and Regionalization. - A project to provide for the planning of regional public water and wastewater systems, to provide for the orderly coordination of local actions relating to public water and wastewater systems, or to help realize economies of scale in regional public water and wastewater systems through consolidation, management, merger, or interconnection of public water and wastewater systems. If an applicant demonstrates that it is not feasible for the project to include regionalization, the funding agency shall assign the project the same priority under this subdivision as a project that includes regionalization.

(11) State water supply plan. - A project that addresses a potential conflict between local plans or implements a measure in which local water supply plans could be better coordinated, as identified in the State water supply plan pursuant to G.S. 143-355(m).

(12) Water conservation measures for drought. - A project that includes adoption of water conservation measures by a local government unit that are more stringent than the minimum water conservation measures required pursuant to G.S. 143-355.2.

(13) Low-income residents. - A project that is located in an area annexed by a municipality under Article 4A of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes in order to provide water or sewer services to low-income residents. (2005-454, s. 3; 2008-143, s. 15; 2010-151, s. 2; 2011-145, s. 13.3(hhh); 2011-396, s. 11.2; 2013-360, s. 14.21(e); 2013-413, s. 57(r); 2014-115, s. 17; 2015-241, s. 14.13(c).)