WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today celebrated the official launch of his Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which will make low-cost loans available to communities across the country to invest in repairing and upgrading crumbling water infrastructure. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that Congress’s initial funding of the loan program, which was signed into law in December, will allow the agency to offer roughly $1 billion in financing and leverage approximately $2 billion in total infrastructure investment.
“Today’s news is huge for Oregon and our entire nation,” said Merkley. “Investments in water infrastructure create good jobs and are critical to preventing public health crises like the lead contamination we saw in Flint, Michigan. With communities across the country facing rapidly aging water systems and growing populations, our water infrastructure is under strain like never before. By investing in low-cost financing for these critical projects, we can boost job creation now while making essential long-term investments in our health and our economic growth.”
Merkley added, “Oregon’s mayors, county commissioners, and other local leaders deserve a tremendous share of the credit for this progress. Their persistence in raising this crisis and brainstorming solutions ultimately led to the creation of a program that will pay huge dividends not only for their communities, but for communities across the country.”
Merkley holds a town hall in each of Oregon’s 36 counties, every year. Before each town hall, he meets with local elected officials to hear about the challenges and successes they are seeing in their particular communities. In almost every meeting that he holds, in every corner of Oregon, he hears about the challenges that local communities are having finding funding to replace or upgrade aging water infrastructure. These conversations inspired Merkley to propose and fight for the creation of the WIFIA program, modeled off of the successful Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA).
Clean drinking water and modern wastewater treatment systems are critical for public health and safety, strong local businesses, population growth, and clean rivers and aquifers. Incidents like the recent crisis in Flint, Michigan underscore the dangers that can result when the safety of our drinking water and state of our water infrastructure is not made a priority.
With the WIFIA program now officially launched, state, local, and tribal governments will be able to apply for financing to help with a wide range of water infrastructure projects, including:
• drinking water treatment and distribution projects
• wastewater conveyance and treatment projects
• enhanced energy efficiency projects at drinking water and wastewater facilities
• desalination, aquifer recharge, alternative water supply, and water recycling projects
• drought prevention, reduction, or mitigation projects