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City of Hillsboro, TVWD to Apply for Federal WIFIA Support, Saving Water Ratepayers an Estimated $383 Million

Customers of the City of Hillsboro and the Tualatin Valley Water District (TVWD) can raise a glass of water in celebration of exciting news.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last week the City of Hillsboro and TVWD are eligible to apply for $616.6 million in low interest finance support for the Willamette Water Supply System (WWSS) through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). The WIFIA program accelerates investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for significant water infrastructure projects.

The WIFIA financing, once completed, will save the City of Hillsboro and TVWD and ratepayers an estimated $383 million in repayment costs over 25 years.

The $1.2 billion WWSS project will be completed in July 2026 and is Oregon’s largest locally funded infrastructure project. The system will deliver fresh, high-quality treated water from the Willamette River to 400,000 Washington County residents and businesses. In addition to household water needs, the WWSS new system will benefit employers and support jobs in the region that need clean, reliable water service for commercial and industrial business.

The WWSS delivery system - including its intake, over 30 miles of pipes, water treatment plant, and water storage reservoirs – has been designed to withstand the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. This will assure the region will recover more quickly after a large natural disaster.

To date, 96 percent of all WWSS expenditures, over $80 million, have been spent in the local economy.

“I am thrilled for Hillsboro and Tualatin Valley Water District customers to know the WIFIA loan will save them an estimated $383.3 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.” 

The millions of dollars in estimated savings were predicted based on the following factors: 

  • Projected financial conditions of each agency - with and without WIFIA loans - over a 25-year time period spanning from 2020 to 2045
  • Estimated loan amounts and estimated cash disbursements over the construction cycle

The WIFIA program - 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 - uses a competitive selection process that selected 12 proposals nationwide to apply for a loan last year and 39 proposals in the current round, which included the WWSS proposal.

“The city and water district have formed an important partnership to secure a safe, long-term drinking water supply and protect the health and well-being of their residents,” said EPA Pacific Northwest Regional Administrator Chris Hladick in a press release. “This partnership and forward-thinking planning will not only protect local drinking water resources, it will make Hillsboro and Tualatin Valley more resilient to future droughts.”

Selecting WWSS for WIFIA credit assistance allows the City of Hillsboro and TVWD and to lock in financing savings at today’s low rates for the entire program. And, unlike commercial bond transactions, interest payments on borrowed funds do not begin until funds are taken, adding to the savings for ratepayers.

“Investments in water infrastructure create good jobs and are critical for public health,” said Senator Jeff Merkley in a press release. “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. The program is an excellent example of the work that can be done to bring our nation’s water infrastructure into the 21st century.”

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