USD Receives COVID-19 Fiscal Relief Funding from State

USD will receive $1,569,183 in COVID-19 fiscal relief funding from the state to address impacts to its budget while maintaining 24/7 wastewater collection and treatment operations for its Fremont, Newark, and Union City service area during the health emergency. The funding is made available from a $100 million allocation provided by the State Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom in the 2021-2022 State Budget and will be distributed by Alameda County in early 2022.

“As an essential service to the community, USD is dedicated to providing continuous daily operations with no interruptions and remained so during the pandemic,” said General Manager Paul Eldredge. “Staff worked hard to modify schedules and complete critical work in the safest ways possible. We appreciate this support from the state to alleviate unanticipated costs USD incurred during the health emergency as we strive to keep rates as low as possible for our customers.”

This funding arrives after special districts across California experienced budget and staff impacts as a result of the COVID pandemic. Throughout 2020 and 2021, California’s special districts provided essential services to their local communities, maintained a large portion of the state’s critical infrastructure, and employed thousands of front-line workers, but initially received none of the COVID relief funding available to cities and counties.

“Special districts are addressing our biggest statewide challenges, all at the local level,” said Neil McCormick, CEO of the California Special Districts Association (CSDA). “We applaud Governor Newsom and our Legislature for recognizing this and responding to our requests for partnership.  Special districts make a difference throughout California and this funding will make a difference in the communities special districts serve.”

 

USD Issues Bonds to Finance Infrastructure Projects

USD recently sold bonds to fund $110 million in capital improvement projects that will renew and replace aging infrastructure, enhance wastewater treatment processes, and increase resiliency of District facilities to extreme weather events and climate change. The funds will be applied to USD’s extensive Capital Improvement Program (CIP), which is estimated to be over $1.1 billion dollars over the next 20 years. Financing CIP projects spreads these large costs over a period of time to help stabilize rates for customers.

The interest rate on USD’s 30-year bonds is 2.02%. “Prior to the bond sale, the District received new credit ratings,” said General Manager Paul Eldredge. “This resulted in an upgrade from S&P to a AAA rating, which led to savings from the anticipated interest rate of 2.44%. Over the 30-year life of the bonds, the lower interest rate will save the District over $17.3 million dollars.

“USD’s ability to take advantage of historically low interest rates and a favorable bond market is a reflection of the District’s focus on thorough capital and fiscal planning to meet both near-term and long-term challenges,” said Eldredge. “USD’s professional and efficient operations, finances, administration, and governance resulted in favorable credit ratings and investor interest that help the District continue to provide quality service while planning for the future in a way that has the most benefit to ratepayers.”

District projects funded by the bonds will include a portion of Phase 1A of USD's Enhanced Treatment and Site Upgrade Program (ETSU), a component of the largest capital improvement program in District history. Earlier this year, the District was selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to apply for a Water Infrastructure Financa and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan with a very low interest rate to fund 49% of the ETSU program. The District's bonds will also fund additional improvements at USD's Union City treatment plant and its pump stations in Newark and Irvington. 

 

U.S. EPA Selects USD for Low-Cost Financing

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that USD is eligible for $198 million in low-cost financing from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program for the District's Enhanced Treatment and Site Upgrade (ETSU) Phase 1 Projects. USD's ETSU Phase 1 program is one of 55 projects in 20 states invited to apply for funding that will facilitate $12 billion in water infrastructure according to U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

“This is great news for the District as we move forward with ETSU’s critical projects,” said USD Board President Tom Handley. “Federal financing is essential to supplement ratepayer investments in USD’s extensive infrastructure program that will help protect the San Francisco Bay, preserve capacity for a growing Tri-City area, and manage the effects of a changing environment.”

“The WIFIA process is highly competitive, and it is an honor and testament to the outstanding work of the District’s employees and program partners to be chosen for the program’s next step of applying for low-cost loans,” said General Manager Paul Eldredge. “The District greatly appreciates the support of Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representatives Ro Khanna and Eric Swalwell during the preliminary application process. Their assistance was a vital accompaniment to the District’s initial Letter of Interest to the U.S. EPA. USD also thanks the U.S. EPA for its backing of the nation’s essential wastewater treatment projects.”

USD’s ETSU Phase 1 Projects are part of a comprehensive program to support the next 20 to 40 years of operation at its wastewater treatment plant in Union City. The Phase 1 projects include addressing aging infrastructure, improving water quality in the San Francisco Bay through nutrient removal upgrades, and hardening of infrastructure to further resiliency efforts to manage extreme wet weather. “These critical improvements will reinforce USD’s proud tradition of excellent service and stewardship of public funds for many decades to come,” said Eldredge.

Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by the U.S. EPA. WIFIA’s aim is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects. The WIFIA program has an active pipeline of pending applications for projects that will result in billions of dollars in water infrastructure investment and thousands of jobs.

 

USD Wins Two National Awards

USD recently received two prestigious awards from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) for accomplishments in the 2019 calendar year. The District won NACWA’s “Peak Performance” Platinum Award for achieving 11 years of 100% compliance with its regulatory permit requirements. These permit conditions are in place to protect the water quality of San Francisco Bay. USD has been recognized by NACWA for 27 consecutive years since this award program began in 1993.

Additionally, the District received NACWA’s Excellence in Management Silver Recognition honor. NACWA’s congratulatory letter noted USD’s “commitment to sustainable and successful programs that exemplify the attributes of an effectively managed utility.” The District’s strategic planning, financial management, infrastructure performance, employee development, and operational optimization efforts were some of the many considerations leading to USD’s receipt of the Silver Recognition. NACWA represents public wastewater and stormwater agencies of all sizes nationwide.

“These honors reflect the commitment and hard work of the entire District staff,” said General Manager Paul Eldredge. “USD is proud that our dedicated employees work collaboratively every day to provide the highest level of service to customers and protection of the environment. They are the reason for our success.”

 

USD Honors Tri-City Industries

The District is honoring 27 Tri-City Industries with Certificates of Merit for achieving 100% compliance with water quality requirements in the 2019 calendar year. USD annually awards Certificates of Merit to those permitted industries within its service area that maintain 100% compliance with all wastewater discharge requirements. In addition, these industries consistently implement pollution prevention measures, maintain a cooperative working relationship with the District, and demonstrate continuing awareness and understanding of environmental issues and requirements. Several of the recipients have received this honor for consecutive years of continued compliance.

Traditionally, the District held an in-person awards ceremony for these honorees. However, due to the current Alameda County Shelter-in-Place Order and other measures taken in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, staff will instead mail the framed certificates to award winners, along with a letter of acknowledgment. As in previous years, the District will also run advertisements in the Tri-City Voice and Argus newspapers congratulating the awardees. USD commends them for their excellent performance during 2019.

This year's awardees are: *Air Liquide Advanced Materials* Amphenol NovaSensor * Applied Thin-Film Products * Bay Area Circuits, Inc. * Boehringer Ingelheim Fremont, Inc. * Clean Sciences, Inc. * Electrochem Solutions, Inc. * Enablence USA Components, Inc. * Finisar Corporation * Global Plating, Inc. * Intematix Corporation * Kaiser Permanente Hospital – Fremont * Lam Research Corporation (CA03/CA3E) * Lam Research Corporation (CA30) * Materion Brush, Inc. * Matheson Tri-Gas, Inc. * Microwave Technology, Inc. * NeoPhotonics Corporation * Quality Transport, Inc./Truck-Rail Handling, Inc. * Quantum Clean #2 * Sanmina Corporation * Seagate Technology, LLC * SLD Laser Diode, Inc. * Tri-Cities Recycling and Disposal Facility * Washington Hospital Healthcare System * Western Digital Technologies B1 * Western Digital Technologies B2.

USD is responsible for permitting, inspecting, and monitoring many industries that discharge to its sewer system to ensure compliance with Federal, State, and Local environmental regulations. This is done not only to protect the treatment plant from toxic discharges, but also to protect the water quality of San Francisco Bay.

 

Virtual Public Hearing 7 p.m. May 11, 2020

The District mailed notices of a Public Hearing on proposed rate changes to all owners of property in its service area in March 2020. USD proposed rate increases over the next five years to fund vital capital projects that will take over a decade to complete as well as to meet anticipated state and federal regulations.

The Public Hearing was on the agenda of USD's May 11, 2020 Board meeting, which was virtual due to current county and state restrictions on public gatherings.  All members of the community were invited to listen, comment, and ask questions. To read the May 11, 2020 Board meeting packet, please see the Board Meetings web page. To learn more about the outcome of the Public Hearing, please see our Sewer Service Charges web page.

 
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