On December 3, 2021 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accelerated America’s restoration economy when it announced that 39 new projects are being invited to apply for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans and four projects are being added to a waitlist. The agency anticipates that, as funds become available, $6.7 billion in WIFIA loans will help finance over $15 billion in water infrastructure projects to protect public health and water quality across 24 states.
This came just a day after the EPA announced over $152 million in water infrastructure renewal funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which calls for prioritizing underserved communities.
“Far too many communities still face significant water challenges, making these transformative investments in water infrastructure so crucial,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “The WIFIA invited projects will deliver major benefits like the creation of good-paying jobs and the safeguarding of public health, especially in underserved and under-resourced communities. This program is a shining example of the public health and economic opportunities that will be achieved under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
EPA’s WIFIA program will provide selected borrowers with innovative financing tools to address pressing public health and environmental challenges in their communities. Consistent with its announced priorities, the WIFIA program is making $1.2 billion in loans available to support infrastructure needs in historically underserved communities. Additionally, 14 projects will help protect infrastructure from the impacts of extreme weather events and the climate crisis. New and innovative approaches, including cybersecurity, green infrastructure, and water reuse, are included in 24 projects.
By diversifying its geographic reach and the types of selected borrowers, the WIFIA program will also expand the types of projects it supports. For the first time, entities in Connecticut, Delaware, and Hawaii are invited to apply. Three small communities, with populations of 25,000 or less, are selected for WIFIA loans totaling nearly $62 million. In addition, seven projects submitted by private borrowers and public-private partnerships totaling over $1.5 billion in WIFIA financing are included.
EPA is also inviting state agencies in Indiana and New Jersey to apply for a total of $472 million in WIFIA loans through EPA’s state infrastructure financing authority WIFIA (SWIFIA) program. EPA’s SWIFIA loans are available exclusively to state infrastructure financing authority borrowers, commonly known as State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs, and will allow these programs to finance more infrastructure projects in their states. These programs will combine state resources, annual capitalization grants, and the low-cost, flexible SWIFIA loans to accelerate investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure to modernize aging systems and tackle new contaminants.
WIFIA Invited Projects:
- Baltimore City Department of Public Works (Md.): $36 million for the Water Infrastructure Advancement 2021 project;
- Charlotte Water (N.C.): $169 million for the Mallard Creek Sewer Basin Wastewater Collection and Treatment Improvements Program;
- City of Ashland (Ore.): $36 million for a 7.0 Million Gallons per Day Water Treatment Plant;
- City of Bellingham (Wash.): $136 million for the Post Point Resource Recovery Plant Biosolids Project;
- City of Boise (Idaho): $272 million for Water Renewal Services Capital Investments Projects;
- City of Chattanooga (Tenn.): $186 million for Wastewater Compliance and Sustainability Projects;
- City of Cortland (N.Y.): $12 million for the Homer Avenue Gateway Project;
- City of Memphis (Tenn.): $44 million for Stormwater Upgrades;
- City of Oregon City (Ore.): $12 million for Water Rehabilitation, Resiliency and Improvement Projects;
- City of Philadelphia (Pa.): $260 million for the Water Department 2021 project;
- City of Port Washington (Wis.): $12 million for the Water Treatment Plant Improvement Project;
- City of Santa Cruz (Calif.): $164 million for the Santa Cruz Water Program;
- City of Westminster (Colo.): $130 million for the Water2025 project;
- City of Wichita (Kan.): $181 million for the Wastewater Reclamation Facilities Biological Nutrient Removal Improvements Project;
- County of Hawaii (Hawaii): $24 million for Hawaii Wastewater Treatment Upgrades;
- EPCOR Foothills Water Project Inc. (Ore.): $76 million for the Lake Oswego Wastewater Treatment Replacement Project;
- Fishers Island Water Works Corporation (N.Y.): $14 million for Water System Improvements;
- Gainesville Regional Utilities (Fla.): $14 million for the Sanitary Sewer Replacement and Improvement Project;
- Helix Water District (Calif.): $16 million for the Drinking Water Reliability Project;
- King County (Wash.): $287 million Master Agreement;
- Marin Municipal Water District (Calif.): $11 million for Marin Water;
- Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) (Mo.): $278 million for MSD Project Clear – Deer Creek Watershed / Lemay Service Area System Improvements;
- Metro Water Services (Tenn.): $186 million for the Process Advancements at Omohundro and K.R. Harrington Water Treatment Plants Project;
- Narragansett Bay Commission (R.I.): $28 million for Field’s Point Resiliency Improvements;
- New Castle County (Del.): $32 million for the Christina River Force Main Rehabilitation Project;
- Project 7 Water Authority (Colo.): $39 million for the Ridgway Water Treatment Plant;
- Rialto Water Service LLC (Calif.): $68 million for Microgrid and System Improvements;
- San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (Calif.): $618 million for Wastewater Capital Plan Resilience Projects;
- Santa Clara Valley Water District (Calif.): $575 million for the Pacheco Reservoir Expansion Project;
- Santa Clara Valley Water District (Calif.): $80 million for the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program;
- Santa Margarita Water District (Calif.): $22 million for Recycled Water Conversion;
- Sharyland Water Supply Corporation (Texas): $14 million for Sharyland Water Supply Corporation Water System Infrastructure Improvements;
- South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (Conn.): $20 million for Lake Whitney Dam and Spillway Improvements;
- Tualatin Valley Water District (Ore.): $16 million for the Water System Upgrades Program;
- United Water Conservation District (Calif.): $52 million for the Santa Felicia Safety Improvement Project;
- Upper Santa Ana River Watershed Infrastructure Financing Authority (Calif.): $177 million for the Watershed Connect project; and
- Village of New Lenox (Ill.): $70 million for Phase 1 Improvements projects.
Waitlisted projects include:
- American Infrastructure Holdings (S.D.): $20 million for the Sioux City Biosolids to Fertilizer Project;
- Lake Restoration Solutions, LLC (Utah): $893 million for the Utah Lake Restoration Project;
- Northern Water (Colo.): $464 million for the Northern Integrated Supply Project – Glade Reservoir Complex; and
- Southland Water Agency (Ill.): $479 million for the Southland Water Agency Infrastructure System.
Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by EPA. WIFIA’s goal is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects.
Since the first WIFIA loan closed in 2018, EPA has announced 63 WIFIA loans that are providing over $12 billion in credit assistance to help finance approximately $26 billion for water infrastructure while creating more than 73,000 jobs and saving ratepayers over $4.5 billion. EPA received 50 letters of interest from public and private entities as well as State Infrastructure Financing Authorities in response to the 2021 WIFIA Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) and the 2021 State Infrastructure Financing Authorities WIFIA NOFA.
The day before that historic announcement—on December 2, 2021—the EPA announced funding that states, Tribes, and territories will receive in 2022 through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This funding, provided through EPA’s State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs, will create jobs while upgrading America’s aging water infrastructure and addressing key challenges like lead in drinking water and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination.
In a letter sent to Governors, the Administrator encouraged states to maximize the impact of water funding from the law – an unprecedented $50 billion investment – to address disproportionate environmental burdens in historically underserved communities across the country.
“With President Biden’s leadership and congressional action, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has created a historic opportunity to correct longstanding environmental and economic injustices across America,” said EPA Administrator Regan. “As leaders, we must seize this moment. Billions of dollars are about to start flowing to states and it is critical that EPA partners with states, Tribes, and territories to ensure the benefits of these investments are delivered in the most equitable way.”
EPA will allocate $7.4 billion to states, Tribes, and territories for 2022, including over $152 million to assist Washington. The loans help communities keep water rates more affordable while addressing local drinking water and wastewater infrastructure challenges, and fund large water quality projects.
Nearly half of the total funding is available as grants or principal forgiveness loans that remove barriers to investing in essential water infrastructure in underserved communities across rural America and in urban centers. The 2022 allocation is the first of five years of nearly $44 billion in dedicated EPA SRF funding that states will receive through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
For more than 30 years, the SRFs have been the foundation of water infrastructure investments, providing low-cost financing for local projects across America. However, many vulnerable communities facing water challenges have not received their fair share of federal water infrastructure funding. Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, states have a unique opportunity to correct this disparity.
Administrator Regan recently completed a “Journey to Justice” tour across the American South where he heard from families and advocates about their struggles with exposure to water pollution in their communities. For children, exposure to lead can cause irreversible and life-long health effects, including decreasing IQ, focus, and academic achievement. At the same time, families that live near high levels of contaminants such as PFAS or “forever chemicals” are at risk to develop adverse health outcomes.
The implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law calls for strong partnership, and EPA stands ready to work with states to ensure that communities see the full benefits of this investment.
Photo via Adobe Stock.