The Los Osos sewer project has received about half the money it will need for construction because of an $87 million loan and grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A bipartisan group — led by Rep. Lois Capps, a Democrat; state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, a Republican; and county Supervisor Bruce Gibson — announced the award Friday morning at the County Government Center.
The money comes from stimulus funds available through the Recovery Act.
Sometime in the next several months, the county Board of Supervisors will consider a resolution to proceed with the project’s construction, Gibson said. The financing has to be in place before the county can solicit bids.
The award includes a $4 million grant; $83 million is designated for a low-interest loan, Gibson said.
The sewer project is expected to cost about $166 million, create about 2,900 jobs and provide service to about 4,700 homes.
The county still has to secure additional funds for the project, but Friday’s announcement came with much celebration.
“This is absolutely wonderful news,” said Capps, D-Santa Barbara. “The new wastewater system will provide safer, clean and reliable water to Los Osos residents, and it will protect our beautiful national estuary.”
Capps noted in a letter to Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary, that nearly 25 percent of Los Osos households are made up of people older than 60 who are on fixed incomes.
Keeping the cost of the sewer down is important for those residents as well as the rest of the community, Capps said.
Los Osos residents are expected to pay between $160 and $200 per month, depending on the finalized loan agreement.
Blakeslee noted the optimism of those involved with the planning given that the sewer saga has dragged on for years.
Some residents had opposed plans that put the sewer in the center of town, but now that the project is under county planning, the sewer will be outside the town’s center.
It has taken the collective effort of elected officials and the hard work of county staff to secure the funding, Blakeslee said.
“One step at a time, we’re getting there together,” Blakeslee said.
The federal funding comes from the Water and Environmental Program.
Federal officials accepted the application that’s typically for communities under 10,000 residents even though Los Osos has more than that. Its population was 14,351 in the 2000 census.
“Our congressional colleagues have agreed with us on the merits of this project,” Capps wrote in her letter to Vilsack.