Corps of Engineers to issue $7.5 billion for dam safety projects

November 7, 2023

Applications close Dec. 19 for up to $7.5 billion in a new credit assistance program that will help improve the safety of non-federally owned dams.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will administer the loans as part of its Corps Water Infrastructure Financing Program (CWIFP). The funds can be used to accelerate water and wastewater projects that serve one of three goals: enhance community resilience, promote economic prosperity or improve environmental quality.

The new program is similar to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, which also provides loans for water projects.

Eligible projects will address maintenance, repairs and upgrades to dams listed in the National Inventory of Dams and are not owned by the federal government. This includes those that would reduce damage from floods, hurricanes and other storms.

Additionally, projects must also:

  • Restore the health of aquatic life;
  • Improve navigation of inland and intercoastal waterways; and
  • Improve navigation of coastal inland harbor waterways, such as deepening channels.

Funding for credit subsidy and administration costs for the loan program has come from various recent federal acts, including $64 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and $12 million from the fiscal year 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act. These sources have allowed the USACE to lend up to $7.5 billion.

Borrowers may include local, state and tribal governments; partnerships; trusts, corporations; and joint ventures.

The CWIFP program will:

  • Offer low-cost, long-term loans;
  • Fund up to 49% of the total project cost, or up to 80% of the cost for projects in economically disadvantaged areas;
  • Require a dedicated funding source for repayment;
  • Available to projects that will exceed $20 million;
  • Allow for loan repayment to start within five years after project completion. Borrowers will have to repay all principal and interest within 35 years of completion.

Borrowers will be able to use the loans to fund project-related costs, such as design and development, consulting, feasibility studies, construction, rehabilitation and property acquisition to minimize the impact on the environment. Prospective borrowers may also submit applications for projects that follow the design-bid-build, design-build or public-private partnership (P3) format.

As part of the loan application, prospective borrowers will also have to describe any public support and community outreach efforts, as well as the areas and population served by the proposed project. The application will also ask borrowers to provide an operations and maintenance plan and note any environmental impacts.

Once the application window closes, the USACE will invite selected eligible applicants to submit a full application. Applicants will have one year to complete the process followed by the CWIFP completing a review. Closing on loans is estimated to occur in 2025, according to the anticipated CWIFP timeline.

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