Beaverton, Portland invited to apply for federal water loan

It’s one of 39 projects nationwide that the Environmental Protection Agency has encouraged to seek money from a program created by Sen. Jeff Merkley; Portland also invited; $6.3 billion total is available in third round.

Beaverton has been invited to apply for a $58 million federal loan to help pay for water system improvements.

Beaverton’s proposed work is among 39 projects in 19 states, including a $554 million plan from Portland, invited by the Environmental Protection Agency to seek a share of $6.3 billion available this year under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

Although there is no guarantee, an EPA statement says: “An invitation to apply indicates that EPA believes the selected projects will be able to attain WIFIA loans.”

The EPA loaned money under this same program to the Tualatin Valley Water District and the city of Hillsboro, which received a total of $640 million, repayable by water customers, for construction of the $1.2 billion Willamette Water Supply Program. When completed in 2026, the regional program will draw from the Willamette River as a backup source of water to the district and several cities, including Beaverton, which joined earlier this year.

Hagg Lake is the primary source of water for much of Washington County, but seismic concerns about Scoggins Dam — which is under study by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation — have led local governments to develop another water source if there is a severe earthquake off the Oregon coast.

“We are committed to ensuring a safe and reliable water supply for our growing community,” Mayor Denny Doyle said in a statement. “This is a positive next step in our efforts toward critical water infrastructure improvements that will enhance resiliency for our customers and the greater region. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in the application process.”

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, was the chief sponsor of the law that was signed in December 2016 to create the loan program.

“Oregon’s leaders deserve a tremendous share of the credit for this progress,” he said in a statement. “Their persistence in brainstorming solutions ultimately led to the creation of this program. As these water infrastructure projects show, persistence is already is paying huge dividends for our communities here in Oregon — and for communities across the country.”

Beaverton has begun work on two major water projects.

One is a 5.5-million-gallon reservoir on Cooper Mountain to match an existing reservoir built in 1994. Given population growth in the city, and on Cooper Mountain, city officials have said a second reservoir will be needed soon. The City Council has authorized $23.9 million in revenue bonds, repaid by water customers, for the project.

The other is a 24-inch intertie between Tualatin Valley Highway/Cornelius Pass Road and Southwest 209th Avenue. It is part of the Willamette Water Supply Program. Beaverton’s estimated share of the regional program intertie is between $3 million and $4 million, also to be paid by water customers.

In addition, the city estimates it will have to replace 28.4 miles of water pipes and 1,850 fire hydrants over the next 30 years.

“I know firsthand how important it is to find outside capital when a community needs critical infrastructure investments,” said Chris Hladick, EPA regional administrator for four states. “These drinking water projects in Oregon are important public health investments, so we’re pleased that Beaverton and Portland are included in this list of eligible communities.”  

Read the Beaverton Valley Times article here.