WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today announced that the City of Portland and City of Beaverton each have received massive, low-interest loans through special federal funding from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA)—a program he created after hearing feedback from communities across Oregon that affordable financing for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects wasn’t easily accessible.
“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. “Oregon’s leaders deserve a tremendous share of the credit for this progress. Their persistence in brainstorming solutions ultimately led to the creation of this program. As these water infrastructure projects show, persistence is already is paying huge dividends for our communities here in Oregon—and for communities across the country.”
Through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), partners in the Bull Run Treatment and Water Supply Improvement programs will each be able to apply for up to $554 million and $58 million, respectively, in low-interest WIFIA financing. With interest rates around 2 percent, the financing will save ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Earlier this month, Merkley celebrated the groundbreaking of Oregon’s first WIFIA project, $638 million for Tualatin Valley Water District and the City of Hillsboro, where ratepayers will save an estimated $264 million in financing costs.
The legislation creating the WIFIA program was introduced by Merkley in 2012, signed into law in 2014, and officially launched in 2017. Merkley fought to create the WIFIA program after hearing directly from Oregon community leaders, including those in Multnomah and Washington counties, about the lack of low-cost financing options for critical water infrastructure upgrade and repair projects.
The competitive program today selected 38 projects for loans, including the Bull Run Treatment Program and Water Supply Improvement Program. The WIFIA credit assistance allows the Portland and Beaverton projects 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 received by the projects, adding to the savings for ratepayers.