Garamendi Bill Unlocks Federal Financing for Sites Reservoir and Central Valley Project Pumps Modernization

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA03) introduced the “WIFIA Improvement Act” (H.R.8217) with the following original cosponsors: Representatives TJ Cox (D-CA21), Jim Costa (D-CA16), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA01), Josh Harder (D-CA10), and Dan Newhouse (R-WA04).

  • Endorsements: Family Farm Alliance, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Public Works Association, National Water Resources Association, Sites Project Joint Powers Authority, Friant Water Authority, San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority

This bipartisan legislation (H.R.8217) would amend the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) of 2014 to make public water projects like the off-stream Sites Reservoir Project eligible for low-interest, longer-term federal loans from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Specifically, the bill would allow water projects with longer useful lifecycles like Sites Reservoir to receive federal WIFIA financing for 55-year loan terms instead of the current 35-year loan terms, thereby lowering the capital costs for such projects.

Congressman Garamendi’s bill (H.R.8217) would also clarify that federally owned but locally maintained infrastructure for the Central Valley Project like the C.W. “Bill” Jones Pumping Plant northwest of Tracy, California, are also eligible for WIFIA loans for capital improvement and modernization costs. While maintained at local cost by the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority, the Jones Pumping Plant remains legally owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as part of the Central Valley Project.

 “This bipartisan legislation would unlock nearly $6 billion in low-interest federal financing for California water projects, including to build the off-stream Sites Reservoir and to modernize the pumps for the Central Valley Project. We need all the federal and state resources we can get to meet California’s future water supply needs and achieve a truly drought-resilient water system given climate change. I thank my Congressional colleagues for their support of this critical legislation to make smart federal investments to upgrade and modernize California’s water supply,” said Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA03).

“The WIFIA Improvement Act provides needed clarity that the WIFIA program can be accessed to fund necessary improvements to critical water infrastructure facilities, like the Jones Pumping Plant, and to fund future projects like mitigating subsidence along the Delta-Mendota, San Luis, and Friant-Kern Canals or expanding water storage like San Luis Reservoir. Additionally, the legislation provides flexibility to extend loan repayment terms, allowing agencies to better manage cash flow and reduce burdens to ratepayers. The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority appreciates the leadership of Representative Garamendi and his cosponsors on California water issues and we urge Congress to pass this legislation as quickly as possible,” said Federico Barajas, Executive Director, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

“The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) applauds the introduction of the ‘WIFIA Improvement Act of 2020’ by Rep. John Garamendi. One of ACWA’s highest priorities is updating California’s water infrastructure. By improving the WIFIA funding program, this legislation helps California’s water community move forward with critical water infrastructure investments,” said Dave Eggerton, Executive Director of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA): ACWA’s more than 450 public water agency members provide 90% of the water used for agricultural, industrial, and municipal uses in California.

“This is a critically important piece of legislation that will help drive down the cost of essential water infrastructure investments nationwide, including Sites Reservoir,” said Fritz Durst, Chair of Sites Project Authority Board of Directors.  “This legislation will help make the Sites Project even more affordable, particularly for local, Sacramento Valley agriculture, significantly reducing the cost of water.  The annual debt service savings generated by the bill will also help spur additional local investments in other essential water infrastructure projects nationwide.”

In February 2019, Congressman Garamendi introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R.1435) directing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to expedite the necessary federal feasibility study for the Sites Reservoir Project. To date, Congressman Garamendi has helped secure more than $1.2 billion in state and federal funding to build the off-stream reservoir.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2019 scorecard gave California’s drinking water and dam infrastructure grades of C and C-, respectively.  In California alone, it’s estimated that over $2.5 billion dollars is needed to repair dams and nearly $51 billion is needed to provide reliable water supplies. Approximately $11.5 billion is available each year in low-interest federal financing from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WIFIA loan program.

The full text of H.R.8217 can be viewed here.