Department of Ecology News Release - June 23, 2016

$109 million made available for clean-water projects across Washington

Skagit County Public Utility District No. 1 will use a $1.6 million loan from the State Revolving Fund to purchase forested land above Gilligan Creek, pictured here, to protect public drinking water. The project will reduce risks of sediment delivery, chemical pollution, temperature impacts and landslides to the stream. (Photo courtesy Skagit County PUD No. 1)

OLYMPIA – The state's ongoing investments to protect clean water continue as $109 million in financial assistance heads toward 54 high-priority projects across Washington to protect the health of lakes, rivers, streams, marine waters, and the groundwater we drink.

The Washington Department of Ecology makes the funding available to local governments, tribes, special purpose districts, conservation districts and non-profits. The money comes from a mix of state and federal funds dedicated for water quality improvement and protection.

"Our funding protects clean water that everybody relies on. Nearly 70 percent of Ecology's budget is passed through to local communities to pay for projects that benefit the environment," said Heather Bartlett, manager of Ecology's Water Quality Program.

Most of the money, $96 million, will pay for 26 essential wastewater treatment facility projects. Nine of these projects are in communities that qualify for financial hardship status. They will receive forgivable principal loans (loans that do not need to be paid back), Centennial grants, and loans with interest rates as low as 0.1 percent.

The hardship communities are:

Seven projects will split $3.7 million from the Stormwater Financial Assistance Program to focus on reducing polluted stormwater runoff, which continues to be the largest threat to urban waters. Among the highest-priority stormwater projects is a project in Clarkston that will receive a $460,000 grant to retain and infiltrate stormwater using low-impact development techniques. Five of the seven projects are in Spokane or Spokane County.

Seventeen projects will get $5.3 million in grants and loans to address nonpoint pollution that comes from widespread, hard-to-trace activities. Some examples of these projects are:

Funding is down from the original $137 million proposed for 103 projects in January 2016 due, in part, to declining oil prices that drew down the hazardous substance tax fund that pays for stormwater projects. While this funding was delayed, Ecology anticipates seeking its restoration.

State financial managers calculate that 11 direct and indirect jobs are created in Washington for every $1 million spent on building clean water infrastructure. Using this calculation, the funding will support more than 1,100 jobs, with one-third of them as construction jobs.

Maps, project descriptions and funding amounts can be found online.

Contact:

Sandy Howard, communications, 360-407-6408, @ecologyWA