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USDA invests $256m in water infrastructure

Investments will support 81 projects in 35 states.

Assistant to the secretary for rural development Anne Hazlett announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $256 million in 81 projects to improve water and wastewater infrastructure in rural areas in 35 states.

“No matter what ZIP code you live in, infrastructure is a foundation for quality of life and economic opportunity,” Hazlett said. “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 long-standing 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, Ark., for example, is receiving a $6.2 million 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, Ark., is receiving $859,000 to construct a new water supply well that will correct system deficiencies to comply with health and sanitary regulatory standards for the 246 users.

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

The loans and grants Hazlett announced are being awarded through USDA’s Water & Waste Disposal Loan & 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 include:

  • $1.4 million for the city of Edgerton, Minn., 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.
  • $4.8 million for Moore County, N.C., to provide sewer service to the town of Vass. Nearly 40% 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 in Alabama to improve its water system. Upgrades include replacing smaller water lines with 3 in. lines. This will result in increased water pressure and better service to the authority’s 531 customers.
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