EPA Announces $727 Million Water Infrastructure Loan to Portland Water Bureau
The 45 WIFIA loans are helping finance more than $19 billion in water infrastructure projects
WASHINGTON (MARCH 4, 2021) — Today, at a virtual event with Oregon Governor Kate Brown, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (OR), Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and other dignitaries, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its largest Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to date—a $727 million loan to the Portland Water Bureau in Portland, Oregon. The loan will help finance the Bull Run Treatment Program to improve drinking water quality and reliability for nearly 1 million people by better controlling contaminants and lead while bolstering the system’s climate resiliency.
“EPA is excited to partner with Portland to announce one of the very first WIFIA loans closed by the Biden-Harris Administration and the largest WIFIA loan ever issued by the agency,” said EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “This project and EPA’s WIFIA loan illustrate how strategic partnerships can improve public health and help address the impacts of climate change, while creating jobs and saving ratepayers money.”
Through WIFIA, EPA will play a key role in efforts to build back better by improving and upgrading the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure in communities across the country. With this loan closing, EPA has announced 45 WIFIA loans totaling more than $9 billion in credit assistance to help finance over $19 billion for water infrastructure projects while creating almost 47,000 jobs.
The City of Portland’s Bull Run Treatment Program will construct a new filtration water treatment plant to remove the microorganism Cryptosporidium and other potential contaminants and water pipelines to connect the filtration facility to existing conduits. In addition, it will implement improved corrosion control treatment to further adjust the chemistry of Portland’s water and reduce potential levels of lead at the tap. The program is designed to comply with two federal regulations, the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule and the Lead and Copper Rule. The project will also improve the system’s resiliency to fire, landslides, major storms, and earthquakes. Together, these projects will improve public health and water quality and increase drinking water system resiliency and reliability for nearly 1 million people.
“In Oregon, we are working to center equity as we implement a 100-year vision for strategic investments in water projects and policy, to provide a sustainable water future that addresses the impacts of climate change,” said Governor Kate Brown. “We must be forward thinking in our investments, knowing that our systems must be ready to withstand more severe weather events in the decades to come.”
“No matter where they live, every Oregonian deserves to have clean water to drink, and a modern, up-to-date system to treat their water,” said U.S. Senator for Oregon Jeff Merkley. “That was my guiding principle when I created the WIFIA program, and it’s the guiding principle behind the Bull Run Treatment Project. I remain as committed today to saving ratepayers’ money and putting reliable access to clean water within reach for all Oregonians as I was eight years ago when this program became law, and look forward to watching the Bull Run Treatment Project come to fruition.”
“The City of Portland, and everyone who relies on clean, safe, and reliable drinking water, are grateful to Senator Merkley for his leadership in helping Portland and other communities protect access to clean water, and to Senator Ron Wyden, Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, Congressman Kurt Schrader, and the Biden-Harris administration for their support of the City’s efforts to invest in keeping our drinking water clean and safe,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.
“These projects echo the wisdom of our City’s founders who established Bull Run as our water source more than a century ago,” said City Commissioner Mingus Mapps. “We are safeguarding their legacy through long-term investment to protect public health and economic growth for the century ahead.”
“Using WIFIA financing for most of the construction costs of the Bull Run Treatment Projects captures significant money-saving benefits for our ratepayers,” said Portland Water Bureau Director Gabriel Solmer. “Not only does WIFIA’s low interest rate guarantee savings, but its long-term repayment schedule doesn’t begin until the projects are built and ratepayers are getting the benefits of the projects as they share in the costs.”
EPA’s WIFIA loan will finance nearly half the project costs. The remaining project funds will come from a combination of revenue bonds and Portland Water Bureau’s system funds. The WIFIA loan will save Portland Water Bureau an estimated $247.5 million compared to typical market financing. Project construction and operation are expected to create at least 4,700 jobs.
Background on WIFIA
Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by EPA. WIFIA’s aim is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects. 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.
For more information about the WIFIA program, visit https://www.epa.gov/wifia.