ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency has rejected almost all of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to use clean water funds to help pay for a new Tappan Zee Bridge.

The agency said Tuesday that only $29 million of Cuomo’s $511 million proposal meets federal requirements.

The governor says his administration will appeal the decision. If the ruling stands, the state would need to find a way to make up the money, which represents about 12 percent of the entire bill for the $3.9 billion bridge project.

Cuomo’s administration proposed using the clean water loans for the construction. Environmental groups objected, arguing the money was intended for drinking water, sewage and other water quality projects.

The EPA specifically rejected big-ticket proposals to use the funds for bridge construction and dredging. The agency approved some smaller projects associated with the bridge, including marsh restoration.

Environmental Advocates of New York Director Peter Iwanowicz said the EPA’s decision is a “strong rebuke” to Cuomo’s administration.

“I think what they were thinking is, ‘There’s money on the table. It’s not being used for what it should be intended for. Let’s try to divert it and see if we can get away with it,'” Iwanowicz told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.

“I think what we saw here was the Obama administration saying: ‘Not so fast. You can’t use funds meant for sewage cleanup to build the Tappan Zee Bridge,” Iwanowicz added.

Now the cash can go to badly needed sewage upgrades, he said.

In May, Obama stood at the foot of the Tappan Zee and said Cuomo’s work at acquiring funding for its replacement showed a “can-do spirit.”

Click here to read the EPA’s letter to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation explaining the decision in detail.

Messages left with the administration were not initially returned.

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