Today, Howard County Director Calvin Ball announced that the county has been selected to apply for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fund the North Tunnel and other flood mitigation projects under the Ellicott City Safe & Sound Plan. The invitation to apply follows the county’s submission of a letter of interest last October and signals that EPA intends to fund the projects included in the application, pending a review of financial information and detailed techniques.
“Our commitment to keeping Ellicott City safe and sound has not wavered, and this funding for the North Tunnel and our other projects sets the stage for us to continue our important flood mitigation efforts for our historic city,” said Ball said.
Howard County was selected from 67 letters of interest submitted by private and public entities and is one of 55 organizations selected by the EPA to apply for WIFIA funding. The exact amount of funding will be determined during the application process, which must be submitted within one year. The EPA will then review the application and perform due diligence regarding the credit, legal and technical aspects of the projects.
The county may be approved by the EPA to borrow up to 49 percent of the cost of the Safe & Sound plan through the WIFIA loan program, while the remaining 51 percent of the costs will be funded by a combination of the county and other sources. Preliminary engineering is being finalized for the North Tunnel and final design is expected to begin within the next few months.
The WIFIA loan program offers lower interest rates and longer loan terms than general county bonds allow. The tunnel and other flood reduction measures require multi-year construction, and the WIFIA loan program allows repayment to be deferred until construction is complete.
“This is great news to start 2021,” said Maryland State Senator Katie Fry Hester. “With the WFIA loan, we can leverage the millions of dollars we have already provided from the state to continue to make Ellicott City a safer place for everyone. I congratulate the Howard County team and look forward to continuing to defend the district this year.
“Being considered for federal WIFIA funding is exactly what we have been working on for the past two years,” said Maryland delegate Courtney Watson. “This will be a game-changer for the long-term security of historic Ellicott. “
The WIFIA program is accelerating investment in our country’s water infrastructure by providing additional long-term, low-cost loans for projects of regional and national significance. The WIFIA program was created by the 2014 law on the financing and innovation of hydraulic infrastructures. The WIFIA program offers loans at low and fixed interest rates and flexible financial terms. Borrowers and their clients benefit from significant cost savings. Since Fiscal Year 2017, WIFIA has selected 89 projects to apply for a WIFIA loan. In total, the selected borrowers requested more than $ 13 billion.