Senate Passes Merkley Proposal to Create Jobs by Repairing Crumbling Water Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate passed Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley’s Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act (WIFIA) as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2013. The program would create jobs by providing low-cost loans to communities for infrastructure projects to repair or upgrade their water systems.

“A good, living-wage job is a critical pillar of the American dream,” said Senator Merkley. “Investing in our water infrastructure is a smart way to create good jobs. This bill will help large and small communities across Oregon.”

WIFIA is modeled after the successful Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority.  WIFIA would create a financing mechanism to provide access to lower-cost capital for investments in water infrastructure. The program offers a proven, modern, and effective way to help increase investment in our infrastructure while reducing cost to local governments and ratepayers.

In virtually every county in Oregon, communities are facing immediate maintenance needs in their water supply and wastewater treatment systems. In some cases it is a matter of repairing and replacing aging infrastructure. In others it is about meeting modern drinking water and waste treatment standards. In yet other cases it is about expanding capacity to provide for growing communities and industrial capacity. Yet traditional sources of assistance for local water needs fall short of communities’ needs, leaving them with little choice but to raise rates by extraordinary margins to pay for their water. WIFIA would offer these communities low-cost loans to fill the gap.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently graded America’s drinking water and wastewater systems a “D.” ASCE also estimated that a lack of investment in water infrastructure now will significantly drive up costs later, with the gap between America’s yearly actual investment and the “needed” investment rising by $90 billion by 2040 if nothing is done.