Oregon Safe Drinking Water Program receives $28M in stimulus funds

The Oregon Economic and Community Development Department (OECDD) on Monday announced receipt of $28.5 million in federal stimulus funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help fund the construction of improvements to drinking water systems across the state.

"These stimulus funds will help communities across the state improve their drinking water systems while also creating more than 300 construction jobs for Oregonians," said Governor Ted Kulongoski. "These dollars will help improve the quality of drinking water and the public health of thousands of Oregonians."

At least 20 percent of the funds provided under the Recovery Act are to be used for green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency improvements and other environmentally innovative projects.

The federal stimulus dollars are part of $2 billion awarded nationwide by EPA to fund drinking water infrastructure projects under the Recovery Act. The Oregon Department of Human Services sets the standards for the drinking water system improvements and determines eligible projects while OECDD works with applicants across the state to tailor financing packages and manage the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund.

"Safe drinking water is fundamental to the health of Oregonians," said Mel Kohn, M.D., acting state public health director in the Oregon Department of Human Services. "Many communities struggle to reliably provide safe drinking water because of aging or inadequate infrastructure. These investments will not only provide jobs, but also upgrade our drinking water infrastructure and help protect the public's health."

Last month, OECDD sent out application packets to approximately 150 public drinking water systems in communities across the state. The application deadline for the Recovery funds is April 15 and awards will be announced on May 15. OECDD will award at least 50 percent of the funds in the form of grants and/or forgivable loans. The maximum award for any one project is $6 million.

"This is yet another opportunity to create jobs and to improve communities across the state of Oregon," said Tim McCabe, OECDD Director. "The federal stimulus dollars give an extra boost to the ongoing efforts of our economic development team."

The Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund program provides low-interest loans and grants for drinking water systems to finance infrastructure improvements. The program also emphasizes providing funds to small and disadvantaged communities and to programs that encourage pollution prevention as a tool for ensuring safe drinking water.

Since the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program began in 1997, EPA has awarded more than $8 billion in grants, which states have turned into $15 billion of financial assistance to fund safe drinking water projects.

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