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  6.  | Alaska Communities Receive $440M to Improve Sanitation Infrastructure

Alaska Communities Receive $440M to Improve Sanitation Infrastructure

Sep 27, 2023 | Alaska Native, Environmental, Healthcare, News

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The Indian Health Service (IHS) recently announced Alaska is receiving more than $440 million to improve sanitation infrastructure in communities across the state. The funding is awarded through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021, Congressionally Directed Spending, and the FY23 IHS enacted budget.

Funds for 42 Projects

Championed by the Alaska congressional delegation, funding through IIJA will enable numerous communities to obtain access to modern water and wastewater systems, many for the first time. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) will carry out the projects with funding from the IHS.

“Access to clean water and sanitation systems has a direct connection to the physical, environmental, and economic health of individuals and communities,” said ANTHC President and CEO Valerie Nurr’araluk Davidson. “Quyana to the tribal leaders, communities, and the Alaska congressional delegation who have worked tirelessly to ensure Alaskans, regardless of where they live, have basic infrastructure that supports healthy lives.”

“As a result of this significant investment, we will be able to fund forty-two projects in communities across the state,” said David Beveridge, ANTHC vice president of Environmental Health, Engineering and Facilities Services. “We’re excited to work with communities in all phases of projects, from planning and construction, to training and employing local teams who know how to get work done.”

The IIJA of 2021, often referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is providing water and sanitation infrastructure funding to be distributed over a span of five years. Prior to its passage, First Lady Jill Biden visited ANTHC to promote safe, effective vaccination. During her visit she inquired about the leading public health issue in Alaska.

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Davidson shared the impact the lack of running water and sewer had in communities during the pandemic. Shortly after First Lady Biden’s visit, the IIJA framework included significant funding for rural water and sewer systems nationwide.

More than 3,000 Alaska residents, primarily in thirty-two communities, lack indoor plumbing and rely on the use of five-gallon buckets with an attached seat, often called honeybuckets, for toilets.

Seven Community-Wide Facilities Listed

This funding announcement means forty-two new projects will be funded by IHS in FY23, seven of which will be providing community-wide first service facilities.

The Indian Health Service uses the Sanitation Deficiency System. This system is a collaborative process in which communities work with ANTHC, IHS, and other entities to identify sanitation needs, develop and agree upon solutions, and prepare all documentation required for the prioritization and funding decision process by IHS.

On average, it takes six to eight years from the time funding is received until construction is completed. This timeline includes the recent funding announcement, to final planning, design, construction, and operational support. Construction of projects that result from the funding obtained will not begin for two to three years, while design is completed. Depending on the complexity of the project, the construction phase can take between four to six years.

ANTHC Offers World-Class Construction

A division of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Division of Environmental Health and Engineering (DEHE) provides world-class construction in some of the most remote parts of the nation and state. The division installs wells and septic systems in individual homes to providing whole communities with safe drinking water and healthy wastewater disposal for the first time.

Four core operations make up the division’s portfolio:

  • Sanitation Facilities
  • Community Environment and Health
  • Health Facilities Support
  • Utility Management Support

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Outlining the IIJA Process

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, passed in 2021, made $700 million available nationwide, annually from 2022 to 2026, for water and sanitation systems that serve Alaska Native and American Indian people across the country. Each year, tribes and the organizations that serve them submit projects for review by the IHS. IHS reviews the projects and determines each project’s status. When IHS deems a project “ready to fund”, IHS assigns a score to each “ready to fund” project. That score determines prioritization and funding follows that prioritization.

Of the $675 million dollars available specifically for IIJA sanitation projects across the nation, ANTHC received more than $415 million for projects across the state. IHS provided $13 million from Congressionally Directed Spending earlier this year and will likely provide an additional $11 million from the Fiscal Year 23-enacted sanitation facilities construction budget.

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