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Published on February 27, 2024
Santa Cruz Secures $74M Boost from Biden-Harris Admin to Reinforce Water ResilienceSource: Google Street View

In a boon to Santa Cruz water sustainability, the Biden-Harris Administration is pouring a $74 million WIFIA loan into the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency, as per an announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today.

This hefty investment aims to strengthen Santa Cruz’s battle against drought by fostering alternative water supply projects and reducing groundwater dependency, said Bruno Pigott, the EPA's Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water, asserting that it is a solid move toward a "climate resilient future," and a financial win for the community that could save millions and conjure up over 500 jobs, the hefty sum will be directed at a myriad of projects including the development of new surface water sources and enhancements to existing facilities, these endeavors are projected to slash groundwater demand by nearly one-quarter come 2040, the funding will fuel constructions such as a modified lake for seasonal water supply, upgrades to a filtration plant, and new infrastructure for pumping and water recharge.

Amy Newell, Chair of the Pajaro Valley Water Board, outlined the significance of the loans for specific projects like the College Lake Project and the funds-partly Watsonville Slough System Project, noting their pivotal role in achieving long-term groundwater sustainability. These efforts reflect the EPA's larger WIFIA program, which, since its inception, has announced support for water infrastructure projects totaling upward of $43 billion, purportedly creating over 140,000 jobs in the process.

The financial flexibility offered by WIFIA loans speaks to a larger agenda under President Biden's infrastructure plan, envisaging a historic investment across the nation, with a staggering $50 billion dedicated to elevating water, wastewater, and stormwater management systems, the Pajaro Valley initiatives stand as a testament to these efforts and underscore the fiscal prudence of leveraging such loans—anticipated to yield $24 million in savings for Santa Cruz's water sustenance projects, and the EPA keeps its doors open to more such applications, currently inviting letters of interest for WIFIA and SWIFIA loans which collectively represent $7.5 billion in available funding.

To learn more about the WIFIA program and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law's impact on water infrastructure, members of the public and interested entities can visit the EPA website.