EPA announces $65 million in WIFIA loans to upgrade water infrastructure in Multnomah County, Oregon
Funding awarded to the Rockwood Water People’s Utility District and the Town of Gresham will support the Cascade Groundwater Development Program project
PORTLAND, OR (May 9, 2022) — Today, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced two Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans totaling $65 million to the Rockwood Water People’s Utility District and the City of Gresham, Oregon, to support their Cascade Groundwater Development program. Through these loans, the EPA is supporting the development of a regional groundwater system to provide reliable, high-quality drinking water to more than 130,000 customers.
“Access to safe and secure drinking water is something all Americans should have, and the EPA is proud to support this project to help provide reliable and resilient groundwater to Oregonians,” said declared EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Through WIFIA and $50 billion under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the EPA is helping to invest in water infrastructure across the country to increase the benefits of water resources in communities while creating jobs. .”
The WIFIA Loans will provide approximately $30 million to the Rockwood Water People’s Utility District and $34 million to the Town of Gresham, respectively, to fund the expansion of their existing groundwater infrastructure and develop a regional groundwater system independent. By increasing groundwater treatment capacity, Rockwood and Gresham will mitigate the rapid changes in water quality caused by extreme weather while providing significant long-term benefits to residents by reducing water dependence on imported surface. The project will also increase resilience against earthquakes by implementing earthquake warnings and construction techniques.
“We all want clean water to be there when we turn on the tap, but that doesn’t happen by magic, it happens by making sure our systems are well maintained and able to weather disasters,” said Senator Jeff Merkley, who created the WIFIA Act after hearing from community leaders in Oregon about the need for affordable water infrastructure financing. “I wrote the WIFIA program so that our local leaders could make these kinds of investments without burdening ratepayers with impossible bills. I’m glad to see the Town of Gresham and the community of Rockwood take advantage of this opportunity and ensure that people have clean, safe water before, during and after extreme weather events.
“Eastern Multnomah County’s growth is focused on ensuring services keep pace with its increasingly diverse population, and potable water is an essential part of that infrastructure for Rockwood and Gresham” , said Senator Ron Wyden. “I’m pleased this region has secured these key federal investments for a safe water supply, and will continue to fight to ensure Oregonians across the state have similar resources.”
“As communities face the impacts of climate change and natural disasters directly, we must invest in measures that promote resilience and improve accessibility and sustainability,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer. “This funding from WIFIA will help support significant water infrastructure upgrades being undertaken by the Rockwood Water People’s Utility District and the Town of Gresham. I will continue to press for the federal government to invest more in community resilience to help Oregonians prepare for a future marked by climate change.
“We are proud that Gresham and Rockwood serve one of Oregon’s most diverse communities. We serve water to some of the most diverse zip codes in the entire state, which include a large population of recent immigrants, low-income residents, seniors and families with children,” said Mayor of Gresham, Travis Stovall. “The WIFIA loan guarantees an equitable and affordable distribution of quality water to our vulnerable population and is essential to the success of this project. As the cost of housing continues to rise, this is one step we can take to ensure our services remain focused on long-term affordability.
“Members of our community have decided to be responsible for their own water, and we have a community that needs clean water at an affordable price,” said Tom Lewis, Chairman of the Rockwood Water Board. “With WIFIA’s extraordinary funding, we are saving our ratepayers millions of dollars and our goal is to have 26 million gallons of water in service by 2025, a system we own and operate is enough. water for our communities today and far into the future.”
The Rockwood Water People’s Utility District and the Town of Gresham will save approximately $18 million by financing with WIFIA loans. The construction and operation of the project should create more than 400 jobs.
Established by the Water Infrastructure Funding and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by the EPA. WIFIA’s objective is to accelerate investments in the country’s water infrastructure by providing additional long-term, low-cost credit support for projects of regional and national importance.
The WIFIA program has an active pipeline of pending applications for projects that will result in billions of dollars in water infrastructure investment and thousands of jobs. With the closing of this WIFIA loan, the EPA announced 80 WIFIA loans that provide $14 billion in credit assistance to help finance approximately more than $30 billion for water infrastructure while creating approximately 90,000 jobs and saving taxpayers over $5 billion.
For more information on the WIFIA program, click here.
For more information on the achievements of the WIFIA program until 2021, click here.