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Hillsboro Ratepayers Will Save $125 Million Over 35 Years from Low-Interest Loan

Original Post Date: August 19, 2019

The City of Hillsboro Water Department is proud to share they have secured a $251 million low-interest federal loan at 1.98% from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to invest in the Willamette Water Supply System (WWSS). 

Thanks to the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan, Hillsboro ratepayers will save more than $125 million in repayment costs over 35 years for developing the additional and seismically resilient water supply. Ratepayers will see the savings in lower than anticipated water rate increases in the coming decades.

“This is great news and a win-win for our Hillsboro community,” said Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway. “This loan will significantly lower the cost to build an additional, resilient, and redundant future water supply. It will save Hillsboro ratepayers millions, create new jobs, boost our local economy, and improve our water system. I’m very grateful for Senator Merkley’s leadership on WIFIA and for the support of Senator Wyden and Congresswoman Bonamici in securing this vital resource.”

The $1.3 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, including customers of the Hillsboro Water Department. In addition to household water needs, the new WWSS 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 facilities, over 30 miles of pipes, water treatment plant, and two water storage reservoirs – 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, and during construction 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, 96% of all WWSS expenditures - over $117.5 million - have been spent in the local economy.

In addition, the Tualatin Valley Water District - one of the City’s partners on the WWSS project – was awarded a WIFIA loan in support of the WWSS project, marking the first time that WIFIA has provided financing for two individual borrowers partnering together on a joint project. 

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 application process.  

“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,” Senator Jeff Merkley said. “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.”

Read the official announcement from the U.S. EPA.

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