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EPA’s WIFIA program gives billions to help fund water management projects


July, 2017
G. Wilkins
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Some wastewater treatment plants are in need of infrastructure upgrade.

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program via flickr

In 2014, the Obama administration enacted the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which established a program run by the Environmental Protection Agency designed to help fund and accelerate regional and significant water improvement programs. Continuing under the Trump administration this year, the WIFIA program received $25 million in funding from varying sources, and another $1 billion is expected from capital and investments to help fund this year’s selected projects.

After the EPA put out a Notice of Funding Availability, 43 projects from 20 states responded with Letters of Interest. Of those, 12 projects from 9 states were selected for funding. In order to be eligible, a project needs a minimum cost of $5 million if in a small community, or $20 million if in a large one. The EPA (via WIFIA) would fund up to 49% of a project’s cost, provided that the total amount of federal funding does not exceed 80%. In addition, the project needs to be creditworthy and have a dedicated source of revenue.

Provided all projects meet these and other criteria, the WIFIA program intends to loan $2.3 billion of $5.1 billion in total project costs, helping to improve water quality for 20 million Americans.

Per the EPA’s website, the following projects were accepted:

“I think it’s vital that the City become 100% water independent and that’s what we’re shooting for with this project,” Councilman Robert Davis from Morro Bay, California, said. “We don’t know how expensive State Water will become in the future and we don’t know what climate change will do to us. We have to be able to produce our own clean drinking water.”

Of all 12 projects, the smallest is the Water Treatment Plant Design and Construction project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The city requested $22 million from the WIFIA program, but in total plans to spend $45 million on a membrane treatment plant to replace the current one, which is 80 years old, at capacity, and “beyond its useful life.” It will enable Oak Ridge to continue providing safe, potable water to nearly 30,000 people.

On the other hand,  the largest project is the Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant Biosolids Digester Facilities Project in San Francisco. The WIFIA program would fund $625 million of the $1.3 billion project, which will overhaul its 60 year old solids treatment facilities to meet modern regulations, improve reliability and seismic standards, and reduce impact on the community. It will affect 1.4 million people.

Now that these projects have been selected, they must work with the EPA over the coming months to prove that they meet the criteria necessary to qualify for their respective loans.

“Rebuilding America’s infrastructure is a critical pillar of the President’s agenda,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These large-scale projects will improve water quality for 20 million Americans, especially those communities that need it the most – such as rural and urban communities.”

  1. Header Photo Attribution: Coolcaesar at English Wikipedia
  2. https://www.epa.gov/wifia/learn-about-wifia-programhttp://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/SF-seeks-EPA-loan-to-help-pay-for-waste-treatment-11350199.php
  3. http://yourbaynews.com/epa-offers-82m-sewer-loan/https://www.epa.gov/wifia/wifia-fy-2017-letters-interest-and-selected-projects
  4. https://www.epa.gov/wifia/wifia-fy-2017-selected-projects-summary-factsheets


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