WASHINGTON â€“ Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that 14 communities, many with populations that are predominately Alaska Native, will receive $23.6 million through the Rural Alaska Village Grant program to fund water quality improvement projects in rural Alaska villages. The announcement of funding follows a new Memorandum of Understanding between Rural Development and program partners to improve efforts to provide clean water and improved sanitation services to the villages.
“Rural Development made a commitment to streamline the Rural Alaska Village Grant program and this funding is the result of that commitment,” Vilsack said. “Residents of these rural communities will now be able to have running water for cooking, cleaning and laundry that most people take for granted.”
The Memorandum of Understanding is the result of an initiative launched by USDA in April of 2010 through a Rural Alaska Village Grant (RAVG) Process Improvement Conference in Anchorage. The conference was attended by representatives from USDA, Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), Indian Health Service and the Denali Commission and focused on ways to improve communication, simplify the application process and maintain grant funds accountability.
The inter-agency collaboration has produced results throughout the streamlining initiative. In 2009 and 2010 USDA invested more than $65 million in RAVG construction and planning projects.
For example, the community of Old Kasigluk will use grant funds to construct core facilities, including a water treatment plant, washeteria, a water storage tank, lift station, and a sewer force main to transport wastewaster directly to a recently constructed sewage lagoon. The washeteria, a centralized running-water facility, will provide the residents of Old Kasigluk, a rural community in southwestern Alaska, with access to clean water for cooking, cleaning and washing. The improvements are the first upgrades needed to provide the community with quality sanitary services and replace structurally unsound facilities that can no longer be used. The residents of the community currently haul water and dispose of wastewater by utilizing “honey” buckets.
Communities receiving grant funds under this announcement include: Toksook Bay, $5,252,400; Stebbins, $5,064,367; Kasaan, $3,393,750; Togiak, $937,509; Old Kasigluk, $4,082,250; Shungnak, $1,492,500; Nunam Iqua, $137,655; Igiugig, $1,326,122; Kwigillingok, $973,875; Saxman, $303,938; Eek, $210,000; Golovin, $74,700; Kobuk, $33,750; Kotlik, $375,000.
In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The White House Rural Council will work throughout government to create policies to promote economic prosperity and a high quality of life in our rural communities.
Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining, and thriving economically.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $150 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.