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USDA Officials travel from Washington, D.C. to meet with Alaskans and announce funding

$6.7 Million in Funding for Healthy Water and Waste Projects a key Focus for our Next Generations

Bethel, Alaska, June 13, 2014 – Leslie Wheelock, Director of USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations traveled to Alaska to meet USDA leadership and visit the rural communities of Bethel and Kasigluk. As part of the visit, Wheelock announced roughly $6.7 million in Rural Alaska Village Grant (RAVG) Program funding through USDA-Rural Development.  Wheelock made these funding announcements on behalf of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"Today’s announcement represents the continuation of a long-standing commitment by USDA-Rural Development (RD) to develop and mitigate dire sanitation and public health conditions in predominantly Native villages in rural Alaska. These types of funding investments through RD help improve sanitary conditions by bringing basic services to homes and public buildings in these communities," said Wheelock.

The rural Alaskan communities proposed to receive funding under the announcement are Lower Kalskag and Buckland. The projects for water and wastewater will provide residents in these communities with basic sanitation services. For instance, the community of Lower Kalskag currently lacks infrastructure to provide residents with healthy drinking water or a safe method of wastewater disposal. The residents currently haul water and utilize honey buckets for wastewater disposal.

While in rural Alaska, Wheelock also attended the grant opening of a new washeteria/water treatment plant facility in Old Kasigluk. In 2011, RD provided $4,082,250 for the construction of this facility, which would provide safe drinking water for the residents. Currently, residents haul water and utilize honey buckets for waste disposal.  The project sites are located in a new USDA StrikeForce area. “USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity” is an initiative designed to focus USDA programs in partnership with Alaska Native organizations, such as from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium; Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation; Alaskan Village Electric Cooperative; State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation; Indian Health Services and other non-governmental organizations so that USDA programs can impact the region and alleviate persistent poverty in rural Alaska.

What follows is more detail on the projects that are being funded:

  1. Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium on behalf of the Native village of Lower Kalskag: $4,835,550

Funds will be used for the construction of water and wastewater systems to improve the health and sanitation circumstances through removal of dire sanitation conditions via a gravity sewer main in the southwest and southeast portions of Lower Kalskag. Sewer service lines will be constructed to serve 23 homes. A water main and water service lines will be constructed for 57 homes. The homes in the community of Lower Kalskag currently haul water and utilize honeybuckets for waste disposal. 

  1. State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation on behalf of the City of Buckland: $1,906,050

Rural Development funds will be used for the construction of a water treatment plant that will improve the health and sanitation circumstances through removal of dire sanitation conditions. Funds may be used for the completion of a water treatment plant, which includes a Magnetic Ion Exchange/Direct Filtration system. The existing water treatment plant is unable to adequately treat the water of the Buckland River to meet minimum Environmental Protection Agency requirements for reducing the formation of Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts. In addition, the existing water treatment plant does not have adequate capacity to serve a community-wide piped system. The piped system is under construction and will serve homes that are hauling water and using honeybuckets.

President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.

USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

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