The city of Magnolia’s request for a $13.6 million loan to help finance the expansion of its wastewater treatment plant was approved Dec. 4 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office, according to a USDA press release.

“Funding for infrastructure is vital in helping rural communities keep the pace with their rising populations,” said Edd Hargett, Texas state director for rural development, in the release.

The loan allows the city to move forward with an expansion of its existing wastewater treatment facility on Nichols Sawmill Road, which would more than double the current capacity and allow the city to bring new developments online, City Administrator Paul Mendes said.

“It’s expanding the size of our current sewer plant to act as what we’re calling a bridge,” he said. “We know we’re going to need a lot more capacity than you can put into that sewer plant, but by enlarging it, it will keep us operational and able to support the new development until we have time to build a new plant.”

New developments can tap into the city’s system instead of building separate facilities, expediting the development process, Mendes said.

“What’s happening with the developers, they’re coming in, and they’re ready to build. The fact that we can provide them with water and sewer means they don’t have to go out for permitting and trying to start their own [municipal utility districts] and their own sewer plants," he said. "They just tie onto our system, and we become the provider for water and sewer, which allows them to go a lot faster and a lot more efficiently.”

Magnolia City Council approved an agreement with Strand Associates Inc. on Dec. 11 for master planning, design, bidding and construction-related services for the wastewater system.

Mendes said he anticipates the city will seek construction bids this spring with construction work taking about 18 months to complete. The project will also enlarge the pipes to the treatment plant to handle the increased volume.