In the News

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

Chicken Creek project to create Tualatin River wetland

Work at the National Wildlife Refuge is focused on restoring the creek to its original shape.

The Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is starting a yearlong project to re-create the original curvature of Chicken Creek.

The creek, which naturally flowed into the Tualatin River, was constructed into a single straight line a century ago for farming purposes.

“When you straighten (a creek), the water goes a lot faster and carries a lot more sediment in it, and it doesn’t carry as much diversity in the channel,” Refuge manager Larry Klimek said. When it returns to its natural flow, he added, “It’ll slow down and spread out over the landscape.”

The construction will help create a natural wetland system on the Refuge’s 280-acre Atfalat’i Unit.

Klimek said he doesn’t anticipate water staying in the creek channel, because beavers will most likely come and dam portions of the creek, causing it to pond and flood.

“It just creates a whole lot of other diversity,” he said. “So now you have water influencing a much larger area than just one strip coming down.”

The construction has been a part of the Refuge’s comprehensive conservation plan since 2013.

Organizations like Ducks Unlimited, Friends of the Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge, Willamette Water Supply and…

Continue reading article at SherwoodGazette

Hillsboro looks at water rate increases for 2020

Cornelius water customers would see their rates hiked nearly 10%. Most of Hillsboro’s rates would go up less.

For the third time in four years, the City of Hillsboro is looking at raising water rates for customers in the city, as well as Cornelius, Gaston and Laurelwood.

The city’s utilities commission plans to consider the matter in October, but Hillsboro officials are hoping for feedback from the community about the changes by the end of this month.

If approved, the water rate increases would go into effect next year.

The proposed increases would raise the rate for single-family homes by 4.9%, nearly the same increase the city imposed last year, when it raised water rates for single-family customers by 5%. According to the city, a typical resident living in a single-family home uses about 6,000 gallons of water per month. Their water bill would increase by $1.68, from $34.34 to $36.02.

Customers are charged based on how much water they use, as well as the frequency they use. Actual percentages are expected to…

Continue reading article at HillsboroNewsTimes