Today, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced the County was selected to apply for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finance the North Tunnel and other flood mitigation projects as part of 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 the EPA intends to fund the projects included in the application, pending a review of detailed financial and engineering information.
“Our commitment to keeping Ellicott City safe and sound has not wavered, and this funding for the North Tunnel and our other projects paves the way for us to continue our significant flood mitigation efforts for our historic town,” said Ball.
Howard County was selected from 67 letters of interest submitted by private and public entities and is among 55 organizations that were selected by the EPA to apply for WIFIA funding. The exact amount of funding will be determined through the application process, which must be submitted within a year. The EPA will then review the application and perform due diligence regarding credit, legal and technical aspects of the projects.
The County can 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 County and other sources. Preliminary engineering is being finalized for the North Tunnel and final design is anticipated to commence in the next several months.
The WIFIA loan program offers lower interest rates and longer borrowing terms than County general obligation bonds permit. The tunnel and other flood reduction measures require multi-year construction, and the WIFIA loan program allows for deferral of repayment until construction is complete.
“This is excellent 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 delivered from the state to continue to make Ellicott City safer for all. I congratulate the Howard County team and look forward to continuing to advocate for the district this year.”
“To be considered for federal WIFIA funding is exactly what we have worked toward the past two years,” said Maryland Delegate Courtney Watson. “This will be a game changer for the long-term safety of historic Ellicott City.”
The WIFIA program accelerates investment in our nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for regionally and nationally significant projects. The WIFIA program was established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014. The WIFIA program offers loans with low, fixed interest rates and flexible financial terms. Borrowers and their customers benefit from significant cost saving. Since Fiscal Year 2017, WIFIA has selected 89 projects to apply for a WIFIA loan. In total, selected borrowers requested more than $13 billion.