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Narragansett Bay Commission Invited to Apply for EPA Infrastructure Financing

Thu December 06, 2018 - Northeast Edition #25
Providence Journal


The EPA is inviting the Narragansett Bay Commission to apply for a $251 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan.
The EPA is inviting the Narragansett Bay Commission to apply for a $251 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is inviting the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC) to apply for a $251 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to make infrastructure improvements to control combined sewer overflows (CSOs) as a part of NBC's continuing CSO program.

After a robust, statutorily-required review process, the NBC was selected as one of 39 projects nationwide — and the only agency in New England — from a group of 62 prospective borrowers, representing large and small communities, who submitted letters of interest to EPA. Together, the selected borrowers will receive WIFIA loans totaling up to $5 billion to help finance more than $10 billion in water infrastructure investments and create up to 155,000 jobs.

"This funding will continue the important work already under way to address sewer overflows, which means cleaner water and a more vibrant economy for communities across Narragansett Bay," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn.

Established in 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program at EPA that aims to accelerate investment in the nation's water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects. The NBC will use the loan funds to help finance Phase III of its CSO Abatement Project, which includes construction of a 59-million-gallon capacity deep rock tunnel to store storm-related sewage overflows. Phases I and II of the project, completed in 2008 and 2014 respectively, already have effected significant water quality improvements in Narragansett Bay and the urban rivers, decreasing bathing beach closures by 85 percent and expanding shell-fishing into 3,700 acres of the bay that have been closed for seventy years.

"We have dual responsibilities at the NBC: to the environment and to our ratepayers," said NBC Executive Director Ray Marshall. "The WIFIA program will help us stay on a robust course of improving our clean water infrastructure while also providing some relief for our ratepayers. We are confident that all of Rhode Island will benefit from cleaner water and greater opportunities to experience our rivers and bay."