The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week that Tualatin Valley Water District (TVWD) and the City of Hillsboro are eligible to apply for $616.6 million in federal loan support for the Willamette Water Supply System (WWSS) through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation program (WIFIA).
This is a remarkable success as the EPA selected only 39 proposals nationwide this year. The $1.2 billion investment in the WWSS will not change.
However, WIFIA funding will save ratepayers about $383 million in borrowing costs for the new water system.
Creating and funding the WIFIA program has been one of Senator Jeff Merkley's highest legislative priorities since 2013. Senator Wyden, and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, of Washington County, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader and Peter DeFazio each lent their support at critical legislative moments to make WIFIA a reality.
The WIFIA program encourages local investments in water and wastewater capital improvements across the country by offering long-term low interest rate financing with flexible draw down and repayment options.
The teamwork in Washington, D.C., mirrors the remarkable level of local cooperation at the heart of WWSS — the TVWD/Hillsboro partnership.
TVWD and Hillsboro have long been partners in our regional Joint Water Commission, which operates a water treatment plan that provides 365,000 people with water today.
As the two organizations searched for a future water supply, it became evident that working together was the way to go. The result is the WWSS which, once built, will serve our region well into the next century.
WWSS will draw water from the Willamette River at Wilsonville, pump it to a new water treatment plant near Sherwood, and then distribute the water to TVWD, Hillsboro, and Beaverton customers. More than 30 miles of 66-inch diameter pipeline will be installed with water flowing to customer taps in 2026.
The new system has many benefits. It will be a highly reliable water supply for our growing region.
The system has been designed to withstand a major Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, speeding the region's recovery after a large natural disaster. And, the state-of-the-art treatment plant will help protect us from contaminants such as algal toxins that result from our changing climate.
In addition to household water needs, the new system will support the region with reliable water service for fire protection and economic development.
We are already seeing the benefits of the smart planning at the core of WWSS. The newly built 124th Avenue extension, linking Sherwood and Tualatin to Wilsonville, is an example of how the WWSS communities and Washington County are working together to save money and reduce impacts to residents and the environment.
The county and WWSS worked cooperatively, so the WWSS pipeline could be installed before the new road was built.
WWSS has also cooperated with Wilsonville and Hillsboro transportation projects. More cooperation is coming when the county tackles Tualatin-Sherwood Road, Roy Rogers, and other projects over the next few years.
The WWSS is also contributing to our local economy. To date, WWSS has spent $80 million with 96 percent of this spending going into local businesses.
The Westside Economic Alliance works hard to sustain the economic vitality of the region. We do this by supporting the people, companies, and governments who do the hard work every day to protect and strengthen our communities.
The core value of WWSS is long-term reliability. What we see in WWSS is how our entire community, from those who represent us in Washington D.C. to those serving us in local governments, can be relied upon to work together to achieve very big things.
If you want to know more about WWSS, turn to: OurReliableWater.org
Norm Eder serves on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors for the Westside Economic Alliance and is also a past president of WEA.