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USDA invests $256m in water infrastructure in US rural communities

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The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $256m in 81 projects to improve water and wastewater infrastructure across rural communities in 35 states.

Rural Development secretary’s assistant Anne Hazlett said: “No matter what zip code you live in, infrastructure is a foundation for quality of life and economic opportunity.

“Through strong partnerships, USDA is ensuring that rural communities have the modern, reliable infrastructure they need to prosper.”

During her keynote address at the Arkansas Rural Development conference, Hazlett spoke about USDA’s longstanding partnership with state and local officials to improve the quality of life in rural communities.

She met with various representatives on issues important to rural Arkansas residents and businesses, such as ways USDA is partnering with local communities to support opioid treatment, prevention and recovery services. She also highlighted USDA efforts to support e-Connectivity in the state.

Arkansas is receiving two of the 81 rural water and wastewater infrastructure projects Hazlett announced. The Tri County Regional Water Distribution District, in Russellville, Arkansas, for example, is receiving a $6.2m USDA loan to construct a water treatment plant with new intake and water lines.

The new plant will better serve customers during high demand and will help avoid unhealthy conditions. Tri County supplies water to Pope, Logan and Yell counties. The town of Ravenden is receiving $859,000 to construct a water supply well. The new well will correct system deficiencies to comply with health and sanitary regulatory standards for the 246 users.

The recently enacted Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Omnibus spending bill includes a significant boost in financial support for water and wastewater projects. It provides $5.2bn for USDA loans and grants, up from $1.2bn in FY 2017. It also directs Agriculture Secretary Perdue to make investments in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.

In addition to funding in the 2018 Omnibus bill, President Trump has proposed a $200bn infrastructure investment that allocates 25% ($50bn) to rural projects.

The loans and grants Hazlett announced today are being awarded through USDA’s Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. The funds can be used to finance drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems for rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.

Other awards announced today include:

$1.4m for the city of Edgerton, Minnesota, population 1,189, to connect to the Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water system. Edgerton’s well is more than 40 years old. The Minnesota Department of Health has prohibited the city from using a secondary, older well except for emergencies due to high nitrate levels and because untreated water would be discharged directly into the distribution system. The water from Lincoln Pipestone will be blended with water from Edgerton’s well as a useable backup system.

$4.8m for Moore County, North Carolina, to provide sewer service to the town of Vass. Nearly 40 percent of the town’s residents and businesses use privately-owned septic tanks and drain fields, many of which have exceeded their useful life. The new wastewater collection system will address widespread health and sanitary issues.

$446,000 for the Leroy Water Authority, Alabama to improve its water system. Upgrades include replacing smaller water lines with three-inch lines. This will result in increased water pressure and better service to the Authority’s 531 customers. The population of Leroy, Ala., is 911.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities.

In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

Source: Company Press Release

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