EPA Clears $640M in WIFIA Loans for $1.3B Oregon Water Project
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved two new loans, totaling $640 million, for a major water-supply infrastructure program in western Oregon.
The loan approvals, announced on Aug. 19, are part of EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA, program and will help finance the $1.3-billion, multi-year Willamette Water Supply System program.
A $388-million loan is going to the Tualatin Valley Water District and a $251-million loan to the city of Hillsboro, Ore., which have teamed up on the project. Andrea Watson, spokesperson for the water district, said its loan closed on Aug. 2 and the Hillsboro loan closed on Aug. 16.
EPA’s action represents the first time that it has approved more than one WIFIA loan for a project.
The city of Beaverton, Ore., on July 1 joined the water district and Hillsboro as another partner in the project but it isn’t involved in the loans.
The multiple-phase program will include intake facilities, about 30 miles of pipeline—ranging from 48-in. to 72 in. dia.—a water treatment plant and two storage reservoirs. [View program map and schedule here.]
Construction began in the fall of 2016 and so far, a few elements have been completed, including some pipeline segments.
“We intend to be complete and on line in 2026,” says Marlys Mock, spokesperson for the water supply program. “Most of the construction is happening over the next few years, winding down after 2024,” she adds.
Stantec is providing construction management services for the program.
The project will include seismic protections, to make the infrastructure more resilient.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) said in a statement, “In Northwest Oregon, it is a question of when, not if, a Cascadia earthquake will affect our region’s infrastructure.” She is referring to the Cascadia fault, located off the Pacific coast and runs about 621 mi., from northern Vancouver Island, B.C., to northern California.
Mock says project officials are developing seismic standards and guidelines. In addition, the pipelines will include such seismic-related features as flexible joints and a fabric wrap to prevent the pipelines from coming apart during a quake, she says
There also will be seismic monitors in some locations, detect shaking movements and shut valves automatically.
WIFIA was created under the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act but, partly because of small amounts of congressional appropriations, EPA didn’t approve its first loan under the program until April 2018.
But action has since picked up. The Oregon loans bring EPA’s total WIFIA loans approved to 11, and the program’s total loan volume to about $3 billion.
Correction: Hillsboro WIFIA loan closed on Aug. 16.