Oregon City commissioners provided preliminary approval to a plan from city staff to borrow money from the federal government after voters rejected increasing their baseline water rates in November.
Voters rejected raising water rates by potentially more than 41% after six years, after the city requested up to 6% compounding annual increases.
A separate measure on the November ballot, to authorize the city to borrow up to $38 million to replace pipes and reservoirs, received 52% approval. Voter authorization to borrow money was needed to enable the city to apply for low-interest federal and state loans.
Subsequent to the election, city officials were notified that their Letter of Interest for EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act funding, submitted July 2021, was accepted and it was invited to apply for the WIFIA loan. This program provides low-interest, long-term loans for qualifying water infrastructure projects.
The minimum WIFIA project package size is $20 million, with 49% of the project being eligible for WIFIA loan money with the balance remaining paid as matching funds by Oregon City. Up to 80% of the project can receive federal funding in the form of loans and grants.
Without the federal loan, city officials said that Oregon City’s water rights through the South Fork Water Board could be in jeopardy from Clackamas River Water. South Fork and CRW currently are pursuing an intergovernmental agreement for interim water supply via a master water meter for the Thimble Creek Concept Plan until the city completes its water-system improvements within Oregon City’s area on the outskirts of the urban growth boundary.