The U.S. EPA announced 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 to support their Cascade Groundwater Development Program.
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 and secure drinking water is something all Americans should have, and EPA is proud to support this project to help deliver reliable and resilient groundwater to Oregonians” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Through WIFIA and $50 billion under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA is helping invest in water infrastructure across the country to elevate the benefits of water resources in communities while creating jobs.”
The WIFIA loans will provide approximately $30 million for Rockwood Water People’s Utility District and $34 million for the city of Gresham, respectively, to finance the expansion of their existing groundwater infrastructure and develop an independent regional groundwater system. By increasing groundwater treatment capacity, Rockwood and Gresham will mitigate rapid water quality changes caused by extreme weather while providing significant long-term cost benefits to residents by reducing reliance on imported surface water. The project will also increase resiliency against earthquakes by implementing alerts and seismically hardened construction techniques.
“We all want clean water to be there when we turn on the tap, but that doesn't happen by magic, it happens by making sure our systems are well maintained and able to get through disasters,” said Senator Jeff Merkley, who created the WIFIA law after hearing from Oregon community leaders about the need for affordable water infrastructure financing. “I wrote the WIFIA program so our local leaders can make those kinds of investments without saddling ratepayers with impossible bills. I'm glad to see the City of Gresham and the Rockwood community taking advantage of this opportunity and making sure people have clean and safe water before, during, and after extreme weather events.”
“The growth of east Multnomah County places a premium on ensuring services keep pace with its increasingly diverse population, and clean drinking water is an essential piece of that infrastructure for Rockwood and Gresham,” said Senator Ron Wyden. “I’m gratified this area has secured these key federal investments for a safe water supply, and will keep battling for Oregonians throughout the state to have similar resources.”
“As communities confront first-hand the impacts of climate change and natural disasters, we must invest in measures that promote resilience and improve affordability and sustainability,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer. “This WIFIA funding will help support important water infrastructure modernization work undertaken by the Rockwood Water People’s Utility District and the City of Gresham. I’ll keep pushing for more federal investment in community resiliency to help Oregonians prepare for a future marked 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 in the entire state, which includes 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 delivery of quality water to our vulnerable population and is critical to the success of this project. As the cost of housing continues to increase, this is a step we can take to ensure our services stay focused on long term affordability.”
“The members of our community decided to be in charge of our own water, and we have a community in need of affordable drinking water,” said Rockwood Water Board President Tom Lewis. “With the extraordinary funding of WIFIA we are saving our ratepayers millions of dollars and our goal is to have 26 million gallons of water in service by 2025, a system that we own and operate, that’s enough water for our communities today and far into the future.”
The Rockwood Water People’s Utility District and the city of Gresham will save approximately $18 million by financing with WIFIA loans. Project construction and operation are expected to create over 400 jobs.