Federal loan will aid regional water project
Oregon's congressional delegation has announced a $617 million federal loan that will enable the Tualatin Valley Water District and several cities to obtain water from the Willamette River.
The loan from the Environmental Protection Agency will allow the Willamette Water Supply Program to deliver water to the affected areas by 2026 and save an estimated $383 million in financing costs.
Participating cities are Beaverton, Hillsboro, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville, plus Washington County and the Tualatin Valley district. When completed, the $1.2 billion system will allow them to tap a total of 60 million gallons per day and provide water even if a severe earthquake off the Oregon coast disrupts their current supplies.
The loan will be repaid by water customers of the participating agencies.
The announcement was made Friday, Nov. 2, by Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer and Kurt Schrader, whose districts cover the Portland metropolitan area.
Merkley was the chief advocate for the 2014 Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, under which the loan was among 12 approved nationwide. The law was signed in December 2016; this is the second year that projects have been funded.
"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," Merkley said in a statement.
"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."
Merkley referred to complaints by local officials about the lack of low-cost financing options to pay for large-scale water and sewer improvements.
The loan enables the Tualatin Valley Water District and Hillsboro to lock in lower loan rates for the duration of the project. Unlike commercial bonds, loan repayments start only after the agencies draw the money.
Among the program's features: Improvements in intakes from the Willamette River, a new treatment plant at Wilsonville, more than 30 miles of pipeline and two reservoirs.
The announcement drew praise from Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway and the Tualatin Valley Water District board.
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."
Bernice Bagnall, TVWD board chair: "Receiving federal support is a testament to the merits and importance of the supply program to the region. Oregon's congressional delegation deserves our thanks for convincing Congress to create the WIFIA program and for strongly supporting our project."