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City of Hillsboro, WWSS Partners Celebrate Closing on Federal Loans
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced two Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans — one to the City of Hillsboro, and the Tualatin Valley Water District (TVWD) — marking the first time that WIFIA has provided financing for two individual borrowers partnering on a joint project.
The City of Hillsboro and TVWD held a loan closing celebration on Wednesday, October 9. Speakers included U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley; Chris Hladick, Region 10 Administrator for the EPA; Bernice Bagnall, TVWD Board President; and Steve Callaway, Mayor of the City of Hillsboro.
Low-interest loans play key role
The WIFIA loans will provide approximately $251 million for City of Hillsboro, and $388 million for TVWD, to invest in the Willamette Water Supply System (WWSS), an additional and seismically resilient water supply. Currently under construction, the WWSS includes intake facilities, over 30 miles of pipes, a water treatment plant, and two storage reservoirs. The system will deliver fresh, high-quality treated water from the Willamette River to 400,000 Washington County residents and businesses, and is being built to the highest seismic safety standard to recover quickly after a major earthquake. The investments in the system will provide reliable, quality drinking water for generations to come.
In addition to meeting the region’s water needs, the construction of the program is providing fuel for the local economy. The EPA estimates the program will create 4,168 jobs through substantial completion in 2026. To date, 95 percent of all WWSS expenditures, over $117.5 million, have been spent in the local economy.
Federal support for local infrastructure
"The WWSS is a critical regional water project that will save Washington County residents money and help ensure that residents have access to clean, safe, and reliable water for generations to come - while also creating thousands of jobs in the process," said U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. "I created the WIFIA program to invest in water infrastructure projects and job creation after hearing from Oregonians that water infrastructure is one of the top issues facing their communities. This program continues to be a great model for delivering results through local and federal collaboration without the need for additional tax dollars."
The WIFIA program was created by Congress in 2014 with the leadership of Senators Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader, and Peter DeFazio to accelerate investments in the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure by using a competitive process to provide low-cost supplemental credit assistance to creditworthy water and wastewater projects of national and regional significance. The WWSS was one of 39 projects selected from 62 letters of interest received in the 2018 round.
Savings for ratepayers
TVWD and the cities of Hillsboro and Beaverton are partnering to build the Willamette Water Supply System. The current project cost is forecast at $1.3 billion, and is Oregon’s largest locally funded infrastructure project. The WIFIA loans will fund almost half the costs and will save TVWD ratepayers an estimated $138.4 million, and City of Hillsboro ratepayers an estimated $125.2 million compared to typical bond financing.