Under the 2014 Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, Congress established a federal credit program to accelerate public and private sector investment in our nation’s water infrastructure. Administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the WIFIA program provides long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for regionally and nationally significant water and wastewater infrastructure projects. Prospective borrowers submit a letter of interest to EPA for evaluation and then, if invited to do so, a formal application. EPA sought ERG’s help in establishing a reliable, consistent process for the engineering feasibility reviews used in evaluating the letters of interest. These reviews needed to follow an aggressive schedule to meet deadlines.
ERG supported EPA in designing and developing a comprehensive process and associated tools (e.g., checklists) to standardize the agency’s engineering reviews. The process addressed all elements that might be included in a letter of interest, such as design plans, operation and maintenance plans, applicability of National Environmental Policy Act and federal cross-cutting authorities, floodplain management, and alternative project delivery methods. ERG also developed a risk rating framework to standardize EPA evaluations of the potential engineering and technical risks associated with proposed projects. Finally, ERG developed and deployed a series of independent cost assessment tools to help EPA assess whether prospective borrowers had provided realistic and sufficiently comprehensive cost estimates.