U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced a $99.7 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to Miami-Dade County, Florida, to finance advanced wastewater infrastructure upgrades. EPA Administrator Wheeler was joined by U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez who made the announcement at the South District Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“EPA’s nearly $100 million WIFIA loan to Miami-Dade County will help construct advanced wastewater treatment technologies that will protect our oceans and beaches while creating valuable jobs,” said EPA Administrator Wheeler. “Through the WIFIA program, EPA is fulfilling several of President Trump’s top priorities simultaneously: upgrading our nation’s water infrastructure, protecting water resources, and creating well-paying jobs.”
“President Trump’s administration continues to demonstrate its commitment to helping address Florida’s unique water challenges,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. “These federal dollars being released by the EPA will be invested in critical water infrastructure upgrades and help protect the water supply for millions of Floridians for generations to come. We continue to do our part at the state level to push for historic investments to protect and restore our environment and water quality.”
“I am pleased that Miami-Dade County is amongst the first communities in the country to benefit from Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act funds, which I have championed since I joined the Senate Appropriations Committee,” said U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. “This low-interest loan will enable the County to construct a new advanced wastewater treatment plant to meet state requirements to reduce ocean outfall discharges of sewage into our coastal waters by 2025, without overburdening water and sewer rate payers. I was Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives when the ocean outfall law was enacted, and it is very fulfilling to have been a part of this critical initiative to improve water quality at both the state and federal levels.”
“As an appropriator, I know how significant the WIFIA loan is to localities across the nation, and I know first-hand how far these dollars will go in our community,” said U.S. Representative Diaz-Balart. "Not only will this loan save the County nearly $30 million while improving critical infrastructure, but it will also create approximately 95 new jobs - thereby boosting our local economy. I thank Administrator Andrew Wheeler for his commitment to our nation, and for the signing of this loan. I look forward to the execution of this project and seeing its tremendous impact in Miami-Dade County.”
“By utilizing this important funding opportunity, we will be able to come into compliance with state regulatory requirements designed to ensure the safety of our water and sewer system,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “In addition to meeting state regulations, these wells that will be built will help make our county’s wastewater system much more resilient for dealing with extreme weather events because these wells will be built to withstand storm surges, an especially important proactive measure for us to undertake since the county’s wastewater treatment plants are located on the coast, and are more vulnerable to the impact of rising sea levels.”
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein said, “This substantial funding and support from Administrator Wheeler and EPA is an important step forward as Miami-Dade County works to upgrade its wastewater infrastructure to eliminate its ocean outfall. We appreciate the EPA and County’s commitment to improving Florida’s water quality and improving critical infrastructure.”
With EPA’s WIFIA loan, Miami‐Dade Water and Sewer Department will construct deep injection wells at its three wastewater treatment plants to allow for the redirecting of treated wastewater from the ocean outfalls to these wells. This project is required to be completed by 2025 to comply with the State of Florida’s ocean outfall legislation. This project will also increase availability of reclaimed water for potential reuse, reduce sanitary sewer overflows for the county’s 2.3 million residents, increase capacity for the management of peak wet weather flows, and meet advanced wastewater treatment levels.
Miami-Dade County’s project is estimated to cost $203.5 million. EPA’s WIFIA loan will finance nearly half of that amount—up to $99.7 million. Additionally, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will finance approximately $59.8 million from its State Revolving Fund. Because both the WIFIA program and the Florida State Revolving Fund loan program offer low interest rates, the county is expected to realize significant cost savings. The WIFIA loan alone will save Miami-Dade County an estimated $15.7 million compared to typical bond issuance. Project construction and operations are expected to create 95 jobs.
On March 29, 2019, EPA announced the availability of funding to provide an estimated $6 billion in WIFIA loans in 2019. Leveraging private capital and other funding sources, these projects could support $12 billion in water infrastructure investment and create more than 180,000 jobs. This year’s Notice of Funding Availability highlights the agency’s priority to finance projects that are ready for construction in three key areas: reducing exposure to lead and addressing emerging contaminants in drinking water systems; updating aging infrastructure; and implementing water reuse and recycling. EPA will accept letters of interest from prospective borrowers until Friday, July 5, 2019.
While in Miami, Administrator Wheeler also met with members of the American Conservation Coalition (ACC) to discuss environmental issues impacting our nation’s youth. ACC was founded in June 2017 by a group of conservative millennials who saw a gap in the conservative movement when it came to the environment.
Background on WIFIA
Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 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. EPA’s WIFIA program plays an important part in President Trump’s Infrastructure Plan, which calls for expanding project eligibility.
To date EPA has issued eight loans totaling over $2 billion in WIFIA credit assistance to help finance over $4 billion for water infrastructure projects and create over 6,000 jobs. EPA has invited an additional 42 projects in 17 states and D.C. to apply for a WIFIA loan. These 38 borrowers will receive WIFIA loans totaling approximately $5.5 billion to help finance nearly $11 billion in water infrastructure investments and create 172,000 jobs.