The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Press Conference announcing the WIFIA loan for the Waukesha Clean Water Project

The recent announcement of a federal loan for the Great Water Alliance project is great news for Waukesha ratepayers. “Customers will save almost $1 million per year over the 38-year life of the loan because of the exceptionally low interest rate and a flexible repayment schedule,” according to Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly.

The closing of the loan was announced in Waukesha by Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the Mayor, on August 12, 2020.

The $137.1 million loan has a historic low interest rate of only 1.16% over the 38-year term. The project is planned for completion in 2023, with principal payments on the loan from 2024 through 2058, which follows a three-year grace period during construction. Projects of regional or national significance can apply for loans under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).

The mayor said the pipeline to bring Lake Michigan water to Waukesha from Milwaukee will have a useful life of 100 years. “Safe and sustainable water is essential for the health of our city. Because of the long term of this loan, future water users will share in those infrastructure costs, reducing the impact on current residents and businesses,” he said.

Answering questions from the audience at the press conference announcing the WIFIA loan for the Waukesha Clean Water Project

“I want to thank Administrator Wheeler, the EPA, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Senator Ron Johnson and Congressman Bryan Steil for their help in providing this financing. Years of work went into this effort,” Reilly said. “We also had the strong support of the Common Council, the Waukesha County Business Alliance, Waukesha County, state lawmakers, and many area businesses and community groups along the way.”

The estimated $286 million project will construct the pipelines and other infrastructure needed to bring Lake Michigan water to Waukesha and then recycle it back to a Lake Michigan tributary after use and treatment.

The return flow pipeline is being financed by Clean Water Fund loans from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which also have a low interest rate.

Bids were recently awarded for the 23.5-mile return flow pipeline and return flow pump station, which came in $20 million under budget. Construction is expected to begin in September 2020. Bids for the 12-mile water supply pipeline should be awarded by the Waukesha Common Council on September 1. Reilly noted that Waukesha’s agreement to purchase water from Milwaukee instead of other Lake Michigan suppliers will also help ratepayers, saving average households approximately $200 per year. “We are pursuing every option we can to keep water rates reasonable in Waukesha,” he said.

Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly looks on as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler addresses the audience at the press conference announcing the WIFIA loan for the Waukesha Clean Water Project.