In the News

Officials boost plan to draw water from Willamette River

A $1.3 billion regional project scheduled for completion in 2026 will supply more for Hillsboro, be a backup source for Beaverton and enable the Tualatin Valley Water District to end purchases from Portland.

When the largest public works project in Washington County is completed seven years from now, it will draw millions of gallons from the Willamette River and deliver the water to Hillsboro, the Tualatin Valley Water District and Beaverton.

For Hillsboro, the Willamette Water Supply Program will mean more water for a growing city — development in South Hillsboro will add 20,000 more residents over 20 years — and for the expansion of Intel and other businesses.

For the Tualatin Valley Water District, whose customers live in unincorporated communities between Hillsboro and Beaverton, the program means a replacement source for water it now buys from Portland under agreements scheduled to end in 2026.

For Beaverton, the program means a new supplemental source of water that is less likely to be disrupted than its current deliveries from Hagg Lake if there is a severe earthquake off the Oregon coast.

Washington County itself forecasts 200,000 more people — the county’s current estimated tops 600,000 — by 2040.

The program manager and officials from the district, Beaverton and Hillsboro spoke about the project at a recent Washington County Public Affairs Forum.

In its simplest form, the project will require a new intake on the Willamette near Wilsonville and a 66-inch pipe for the water to reach a new treatment plant near Sherwood. (Wilsonville and Sherwood already draw water from the Willamette.)

More pipes will carry the water to two reservoirs, each 15 million gallons, on Cooper Mountain — and pipes will bring water to municipal systems in Beaverton, the district and Hillsboro.

Federal boost

Federal loans to the district and Hillsboro, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year, will amount to $640 million of the overall $1.3 billion project. Their water customers will repay those loans starting in 2026, once the project is completed.

“A lower cost will mean a lower impact on rates, and we will have excellent water quality from this supply,” said Dave Kraska, the program manager.

District customers will save $135 million, and Hillsboro customers $125 million over the 35-year duration of loans, said Tom Hickmann, TVWD chief executive officer since July. For his customers, he said, the savings will be about $20 on a monthly bill.

“But water rates are going up for us to afford the new infrastructure,” said Hickmann, formerly city engineer in Bend.

Beaverton, which officially joined the program in July, will not be liable for loan repayments. But city water customers will pay for their shares of the new source through higher water bills. The same applies to other cities that may join the program in the future.

No public election was required because no property taxes are being levied for the program.

Kraska said Hillsboro and the district conducted their own studies about where to get future water supplies, but drew the same conclusion that drawing from the Willamette would be the cheaper of several alternatives.

Others were increased capacity of Hagg Lake through a strengthened or relocated Scoggins Dam — the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is scheduled to recommend a preferred alternative early next year for seismic safety — development of groundwater sources near Sauvie Island, or purchases of water from Portland’s Bull Run watershed.

Once Hillsboro and TVWD agreed, Kraska said the joint program was formed.

Regional benefits

Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle said his city would draw up to 5 million gallons daily through the project once it is completed in 2026. (The regional intake is estimated at 60 million gallons daily.)

“i think this is a great example of what we can do when we work together. It forces us to the table to talk about regional issues and the ways we solve problems,” Doyle said.

“More water from different sources enhances our ability to respond to changing conditions.”

Doyle said he estimates city participation in the regional program will ultimately cost between $50 million and $55 million, payable by water customers.

The federal loans to TVWD and Hillsboro came under a program sponsored in 2014 by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and included in a law signed in December 2016. Merkley said he did so at the request of Oregon local governments that could not find low-interest loans for water projects.

“This law has been a big positive change in that direction,” TVWD’s Hickman said. “These kinds of investments in infrastructure create jobs today … and for tomorrow.”

Niki Iverson, Hillsboro water manager, said the $1.3 billion project is split up so that contractors from Oregon and Washington will have the ability to bid.

“This enables our local contractors to be able to bid on projects and be competitive,” she said. “We wanted to avoid a situation where large national firms were going to come in and construct the entire project.”

So far, Iverson said, 96% of the $118 million spent to date has gone to local construction labor and materials.

Some pipe work already has been done in connection with road projects: Kinsman Road in Wilsonville; 124th Avenue between Tualatin and Sherwood, by Washington County, and South Hillsboro south of Tualatin Valley Hillsboro near Cornelius Pass Road.

“As much as we could, we scheduled much of our work to align with these other projects to save costs and reduce public impacts,” Kraska said.

But the program involves more than 30 miles of new pipes, so Kraska said there will be traffic delays when that work proceeds.

Before any of the new water from the Willamette is delivered, experts will have to test the mix. Kraska said water quality integration is necessary when water is mixed from several sources.

“We are evaluating the impact of bringing in these new supplies into the existing system and making sure we are properly prepared,” he said.

Read Beaverton Valley Times story here.

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.

Clean Water, Good Jobs

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, October 9, 2019

In 2016, the country was shocked when we learned that an entire city’s water supply in Flint, Michigan was contaminated, harming children and leaving a community relying on bottled water and fearful of their faucets. 

We’ve heard stories about critical water quality issues in Oregon, too, like cyanobacteria contamination in Salem, and water boiling advisories in Warm Springs.  In other communities, getting ahead of their water infrastructure needs meant ratepayers facing big increases on their bills.  All of this is why I created the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, called WIFIA.

WIFIA creates jobs and helps local communities build new water facilities and fix old and crumbling water pipes. That’s why I was excited to be in Tualatin this morning to celebrate Oregon’s first WIFIA project, the Willamette Water Supply Program, which will serve the greater Portland metro area for generations to come.          

Back in 2012, drinking water officials in Washington County suggested that a federal loan program could make a huge difference as they tried to build and repair their water system.  I had been hearing from other local governments all across Oregon that there was a frustrating and costly gap in financing options for badly-needed water infrastructure projects. I fought to create and fund WIFIA because when we give local communities the help they need to confront steep up-front costs, we can create jobs and complete the long-term infrastructure improvement projects that save ratepayers money and, more importantly, keep our communities safe and healthy.

Funds invested into this program are used to secure low-interest loans for long-term infrastructure investments, meaning every dollar of WIFIA funding supports roughly $90 in total investment. This year, I used my seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to help secure enough funding for up to $7.3 billion in investments — a huge help for critical drinking water and wastewater treatment projects across the country. For the program I visited today, TVWD and the City of Hillsboro ratepayers will save an estimated $264 million in loan interest compared to typical bond financing.

Every Oregonian deserves access to clean, modern, and up-to-date water systems. Please know that I’ll never stop fighting for the clean water and good jobs that our communities need — and I’ll always listen to local communities in every corner of Oregon so that your voices are heard in DC.

All my best,

Jeff

Merkley celebrated the $640 million in federal loans to Tualatin Valley Water District and Hillsboro to build the $1.2 billion Willamette Water Supply Program

Later, Merkley celebrated the $640 million in federal loans to Tualatin Valley Water District and Hillsboro to build the $1.2 billion Willamette Water Supply Program, which will draw from the Willamette River to provide a backup source of water for them and other cities that join the project. The loans from the Environmental Protection Agency were made possible under a federal program Merkley conceived in 2014 and President Barack Obama signed into law in 2016.

Read the article in Beaverton Valley Times

Beaverton Joins Willamette Water Supply Program

The City of Beaverton is now an owner in the Willamette Water Supply Program — a new, resilient water source for the community. The city will receive up to five million gallons of water per day when operational in 2026. The system, a network of pipelines, storage tanks, a state-of-the-art water filtration plant, and more, is an additional water supply for Washington County in partnership with the Tualatin Valley Water District and the City of Hillsboro. The system is designed to meet future water demand, and when complete will be one of Oregon’s most seismically-resilient water systems — built to better withstand natural disasters, protect public health and speed regional economic recovery through restoring critical services more quickly.

Read the article in Beaverton’s September/October Issue of YOUR CITY NEWSLETTER (page 7).

Our Opinion: Get ready, because there’s construction ahead

Work on Tualatin-Sherwood Road is sure to be a nuisance. But the payoff will last longer.

And as work continues to build a massive new pipeline system from the Willamette River in Wilsonville up to the communities of Hillsboro, Aloha, Beaverton and Tigard, sections of roadway are being dug up so pipe can be laid in the ground. (On the plus side, that water supply work is providing some of the impetus for the county to finally get to rebuilding Tualatin-Sherwood and Roy Rogers roads through Sherwood.)

Continue reading in the Sherwood Gazette

Willamette River water project gains federal Aid

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awarding two sizable loans that will be used to help pay for $1.3 billion in Willamette Water Supply System improvements.

One loan for $388 million is being awarded to the Tualatin Valley Water District, and the other for $251 million is going to the city of Hillsboro. The money will go toward construction of intake facilities, over 30 miles of pipeline, a water treatment plant and two storage reservoirs.

The program calls for the expansion of the existing municipal raw water intake facility on the Willamette River in Wilsonville, along with construction of a new water treatment plant in Sherwood. The former will be built between 2020 and 2024, while the latter is scheduled to be built between 2022 and 2025.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Oregon Department of State Lands also have approved the project’s environmental permits, while land use permitting is in progress for various elements.

“The benefits significantly reduce the rate impacts to our customers,” Tualatin Valley Water District CEO Tom Hickmann stated in a press release, “while simultaneously helping provide an additional water supply that results in protecting public health with a reliable drinking water source and fueling the economy with jobs now and in the future.”

The EPA has estimated the two WIFIA loans will save the water district an estimated $138.4 million and the city of
Hillsboro an estimated $125.2 million when compared with typical bond financing terms.

Continue reading the article at the DJCOregon

Public invited to learn more about Cornelius Pass Road widening

Southeast Cornelius Pass Road in Hillsboro is set to be widened in the early to mid-2020s.

While the construction project won’t break ground for about three more years, the Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation is getting a head start on its public outreach. It has scheduled an open house for the widening project on Tuesday, Sept. 10.

Members of the public are invited to drop by to ask questions of the project team and provide input from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 10 at R.A. Brown Middle School, located at 1505 S.E. Cornelius Pass Road.

Construction is expected to take place from 2022 to 2024. Concurrently, a 48-inch pipeline for drinking water will be laid down beneath the roadway as part of the Willamette Water Supply Program, which is building a network of water pipelines and other infrastructure to channel drinking water from the Willamette to water customers in Hillsboro and the Tualatin Valley Water District, which covers most of Aloha and Beaverton and part of Tigard.

ontinue reading the article at Hillsboro News Times

EPA Clears $640M in WIFIA Loans for $1.3B Oregon Water Project

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved two new loans, totaling $640 million, for a major water-supply infrastructure program in western Oregon.

The loan approvals, announced on Aug. 19, are part of EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA, program and will help finance the $1.3-billion, multi-year Willamette Water Supply System program.

A $388-million loan is going to the Tualatin Valley Water District and a $251-million loan to the city of Hillsboro, Ore., which have teamed up on the project. Andrea Watson, spokesperson for the water district, said its loan closed on Aug. 2 and the Hillsboro loan closed on Aug. 16.

EPA’s action represents the first time that it has approved more than one WIFIA loan for a project.

The city of Beaverton, Ore., on July 1 joined the water district and Hillsboro as another partner in the project but it isn’t involved in the loans.

Continue reading the article at ENR

$640M federal loan awarded for Willamette Water project

Money to Tualatin Valley Water District and Hillsboro accounts for about half of the $1.2B price tag.

A federal loan of $640 million will enable the Tualatin Valley Water District and several Washington County cities to draw water from the Willamette River.

The announcement this week by the Environmental Protect Agency will allow the Willamette Water Supply Project to proceed with a $1.2 billion project that will deliver water by 2026.

Continue reading article at BeavertonValleyTimes