The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday announced a $196 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to the Chino-based Inland Empire Utilities Agency. The loan is to be used to assist in financing expanded wastewater treatment capacity in the face of explosive population growth on the west side of the county.
The Inland Empire Utlitiies Agency operates regional water recycling facilities, including sewer plands and desalters, at its primary corporate grounds, located at 6063 Kimball Ave., the EPA announced.
The federal loan will be used to expand the operations and capacity of the agency’s Regional Water Recycling Plant No. 5 (RP-5). The project will increase the plant’s liquids treatment capacity by 50 percent over its current capability and construct a new solids handling facility. The liquids treatment capacity of RP-5 will be go from 5 million gallons per day to 22.5 million gallons per day to support expected service area growth. The new solids handling facility replaces the existing facility at Regional Water Recycling Plant #2 as the existing facility will be within the Prado floodplain once the Prado Dam spillway height is increased. The project will meet all regulatory requirements, utilize energy efficient equipment, and continue to provide recycled water to the service area.
“The ongoing drought conditions in the Inland Empire and across California make it more important than ever to ensure local water supplies are reliable, safe and clean,” said Congresswoman Norma Torres. “This $196 million water infrastructure loan from the EPA will help the Inland Empire Utilities Agency expand its wastewater treatment capacity. The increase in local supply means our community will be less beholden to outside sources, and more water secure in the years to come.”
“Our region knows all too well the importance of preparing for droughts and investing in our water infrastructure,” said Congressman Pete Aguilar. “This funding will help the Inland Empire manage our water resources wisely in order to be better prepared for dry years. As the vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, I’m proud to support these types of investments in communities like San Bernardino County.”
“Not only will this project provide residents with an additional local water supply, it will also ensure the community is more resilient against periods of drought,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “Particularly in arid areas like San Bernardino County, these infrastructure improvements will pay dividends decades into the future.”
“The RP-5 Expansion Project will expand the treatment capacity of the existing facility to support the continued growth in western San Bernardino County, and will meet all regulatory requirements, utilize energy efficient equipment, and continue to provide recycled water to the service area,” said IEUA Board President Kati Parker. “Since 2000, IEUA has been able to leverage state and federal partnerships to help fund critical infrastructure projects and keep our wastewater rates among the lowest in southern California. The WIFIA loan will continue our successful federal partnership with the EPA and provide 49 percent in low-interest financing for the RP-5 Expansion Project.”
This project will cost $450 million. EPA’s WIFIA loan will finance nearly half of that figure—up to $196 million. Additionally, California State Water Board’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund will finance approximately $100 million with the remaining project funds coming from a combination of borrower funds and grants. The WIFIA loan will save the Inland Empire Utilities Agency an estimated $153 million compared to typical bond financing. Project construction and operation are expected to create 1,280 jobs.
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 aim is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term and low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects.
“Through WIFIA, EPA is playing a key role in President Trump’s efforts to improve and upgrade our nation’s water infrastructure in communities across the country,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “With this transaction closing, EPA has now issued 21 WIFIA loans totaling $4.4 billion in credit assistance to help finance $9.8 billion for water infrastructure projects while creating 21,000 jobs.”