PORTLAND, OR – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, with Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, and Kurt Schrader, today announced that a massive $616.6 million loan, made possible through special federal funding from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), will be made available to the Tualatin Valley Water District and the City of Hillsboro.
The financing will save ratepayers in the Willamette Water Supply System hundreds of millions of dollars in financing costs for the drinking water system that is under construction to deliver water to the agencies by 2026.
“Investments in water infrastructure create good jobs and are critical for public health,” said Merkley, who in January 2017 celebrated the official launch of his WIFIA law that is making this financing available to the Willamette Water Supply System. “Oregon’s leaders—including those in Washington County—deserve a tremendous share of the credit for this progress. Their persistence in brainstorming solutions ultimately led to the creation of this program. As this Willamette Water Supply System shows, that persistence is already is paying huge dividends for our communities here in Oregon—and for communities across the country.”
“These investments will make an incredible difference for Hillsboro and Tualatin Valley Water District customers, saving them money and giving them ease of mind that their water supply will be protected,” Wyden said. “The program is an excellent example of the work that can be done to bring our nation’s water infrastructure into the 21st century. I will continue to fight for infrastructure funding and financing for all forms of infrastructure in Oregon and around the country.”
“Access to safe and reliable drinking water is critical for our communities to stay healthy and thrive,” Bonamici said. “This federal financing will boost the ambitious plan that is in place to upgrade water systems in Washington County, benefitting hundreds of thousands of Oregonians. We need more resilient and sustainable water infrastructure investments like this to protect our communities from toxic contaminants and natural disasters.”
“Having access to clean drinking water is extremely important and this is another opportunity for Oregon to lead the way,” Blumenauer said.
“This grant is excellent news for ratepayers throughout the Tualatin Valley Water District,” Schrader said. “Water infrastructure is, of course, a foundational cornerstone to every community and ensuring that we continue to invest in that infrastructure is vital to a community’s survival. The ability to invest and improve that while also saving ratepayers millions of dollars is huge, and I applaud my colleagues and the leaders of Washington County for their hard work in this.”
“Receiving federal support is a testament to the merits and importance of the supply program to the region,” said Bernice Bagnall, Chair of the Board of TVWD Commission. “The WIFIA funding saves our customers millions in repayment costs. Oregon’s congressional delegation deserves our thanks for convincing Congress create the WIFIA program and for strongly supporting our project.”
“I am thrilled for Hillsboro and Tualatin Valley Water District customers to know the WIFIA loan will save them million dollars in the coming decades,” said Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway. “These cost savings demonstrate the importance of local and federal officials working together to ensure that our investment in an additional, resilient, and redundant future water supply makes the most of every dollar.”
Through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), partners in the Willamette Water Supply System will be able to apply for up to $616.6 million in WIFIA financing support. The WIFIA financing, once completed, will save Tualatin Valley Water District and City of Hillsboro ratepayers approximately $383 million in repayment costs.
The new drinking water delivery system—including its intake, over 30 miles of pipes, water treatment plant, and two storage reservoirs—will serve 400,000 residents and businesses in Washington County. The $1.2 billion system is being built to the highest seismic safety standard to recover quickly after a major earthquake. To date, 96 percent of the project’s expenditures, over $80 million, have been spent in the local economy.
The WIFIA program was created by Merkley in 2014, signed into law in December 2016. Merkley fought to create the WIFIA program after hearing directly from Oregon community leaders, including those in Washington County, about the lack of low-cost financing options for critical water infrastructure upgrade and repair projects.
Last year, the competitive program selected 12 projects for loans, including the Willamette Water Supply System project. The WIFIA credit assistance allows the Tualatin Valley Water District and City of Hillsboro to lock in financing savings at today’s low rates for the duration of the entire program. And, unlike commercial bond transactions, payments on borrowed funds do not begin until funds are taken, adding to the savings for ratepayers.