Funding from the Rockwood Water People’s Utility District and the City of Gresham will support the Cascade Groundwater Development Program project
PORTLAND, OR (May 9, 2022) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved 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 in support of their Cascade groundwater development program announced. Through these loans, EPA is supporting the development of a regional groundwater system to provide reliable, high-quality drinking water to over 130,000 customers.
“Access to safe 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 Oregon residents,” he said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Through WIFIA and $50 billion under the bipartisan infrastructure bill, EPA is helping invest in water infrastructure nationwide 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 City of Gresham to fund the expansion of their existing groundwater infrastructure and develop a self-sufficient regional groundwater system. By increasing groundwater treatment capacity, Rockwood and Gresham will mitigate rapid changes in water quality due to extreme weather conditions, while providing significant long-term cost benefits to local residents by reducing reliance on imported surface water and earthquake-resistant construction techniques.
“We all want clean water to be there when we turn on the tap, but that’s not done by magic, it’s by making sure our systems are well maintained and survive disasters,” he said Senator Jeff Merkley, who created the WIFIA Act after hearing from Oregon community leaders about the need for affordable water infrastructure funding. “I wrote the WIFIA program so our local leaders could make these types of investments without burdening taxpayers with impossible bills. I am pleased that the City of Gresham and the Rockwood community are taking this opportunity to ensure people have clean and safe water before, during and after extreme weather events.”
“East Multnomah County’s growth places a great emphasis on ensuring services keep pace with an increasingly diverse population, and safe drinking water is an essential part of that infrastructure for Rockwood and Gresham,” he said Senator Ron Wyden. “I am pleased that this area has secured this important federal investment in water security, and I will continue to fight to ensure that Oregonians across the state have similar resources.”
“As communities face the impacts of climate change and natural disasters firsthand, we need to invest in policies that build resilience and improve affordability and sustainability,” he said Congressman Earl Blumenauer. “This WIFIA funding will help support important water infrastructure modernization work being undertaken by the Rockwood Water People’s Utility District and the City of Gresham. I will continue to urge more federal investment in community resilience to help Oregonians prepare for a future shaped by climate change.”
“We are proud that Gresham and Rockwood serve one of the most diverse communities in Oregon. We serve water to some of the most diverse zip codes throughout the state, including a large population of recent immigrants, low-income residents, seniors and families with children,” said Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall. “The WIFIA loan ensures an equitable and affordable supply of quality water to our vulnerable population and is critical to the success of this project. As housing costs continue 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 our own water, and we have a community in need of affordable drinking water,” he said Tom Lewis, President of the Rockwood Water Board. “With WIFIA’s exceptional funding, we are saving our feepayers millions of dollars and our goal is to have 26 million gallons of water on stream by 2025, a system we own and operate that provides enough water for our communities today and well beyond.” beyond is future.”
The Rockwood Water People’s Utility District and the City of Gresham will save approximately $18 million by being funded with WIFIA loans. Construction and operation of the project is expected to create over 400 jobs.
Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by the EPA. WIFIA’s goal is to accelerate investment in the country’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit support 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 of investment in water infrastructure and thousands of jobs. With the closing of this WIFIA loan, the EPA has announced 80 WIFIA loans providing $14 billion in loan assistance to fund approximately $30 billion for water infrastructure while providing approximately 90,000 jobs and taxpayers to save over $5 billion.
More information about the WIFIA program can be found here.
More information on the results of the WIFIA program through 2021 can be found here.