Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its first-ever loan from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program to King County, Wash., to help finance its Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station.
“Today’s loan marks a major milestone in advancing President Trump’s vision for improving our country’s water infrastructure,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA’s WIFIA program is proof positive that we can achieve environmental protections and economic growth at the same time.”
During heavy winter rains, the combined sewer pipes in the Duwamish Valley fill with stormwater and overflow, sending millions of gallons of polluted runoff and sewage into the Duwamish River, which drains into Puget Sound. When the Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station is completed in 2022, it can collect and treat up to 70 million gallons of wastewater and stormwater per day that would have spilled into the river during bad weather.
The project is estimated to cost $275 million and EPA’s WIFIA loan will help finance nearly half that — up to $134.5 million. Because the WIFIA program offers loans with low, fixed interest rates, EPA’s loan is expected to save King County up to $32 million. The project is expected to create an estimated 1,400 jobs and will provide education, job training, and apprenticeship opportunities during its design, construction, and operation through King County’s Priority Hire program and partnership with South Seattle College’s Georgetown Campus.
EPA’s WIFIA program supports the President’s commitment to rebuilding the country’s aging water infrastructure. According to EPA’s estimate of drinking water and wastewater needs, over $743 billion is needed for water infrastructure improvements. With the latest two appropriations totaling $93 million, WIFIA loans will be combined with other public and private funding to finance approximately $16 billion in infrastructure needs. WIFIA financing will play an important part in fulfilling this need. The President’s Infrastructure Plan calls for increasing the program’s funding authorization and expanding project eligibility.
Using funding provided in 2017, WIFIA’s 2017 loans will finance approximately $2 billion in infrastructure costs, including the loan to King County. On April 4, 2018, EPA announced the availability of additional WIFIA funding that could provide as much as $5.5 billion in loans, which could leverage over $11 billion in water infrastructure projects. This year’s WIFIA Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) highlights the importance of protecting public health including reducing exposure to lead and other contaminants in drinking water systems and updating the nation’s aging infrastructure. Prospective borrowers seeking WIFIA financing in 2018 must submit a letter of interest (LOI) by July 6, 2018.