As part of USDA's Earth Day celebration, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced support for projects that will improve water and wastewater services for rural Americans and benefit the environment across the country. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy.
"At USDA, we believe it is critical that communities across the country have reliable, clean and safe water," Vilsack said. "This Earth Day, I also encourage communities affected by natural disasters, including those hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, to apply for funding through the Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants Program.
In all, 43 water and wastewater projects in 32 states will be funded. Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness about the role each person can play to protect vital natural resources and safeguard the environment. Since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, the event has expanded to include participation by citizens and governments in more than 195 countries.
As part of today's announcement, USDA Rural Development is providing more than $145.2 million to improve water quality and provide a safe and healthy environment for rural Americans.
For example, the City of Grand Rivers in Livingston County, Ky., has been selected to receive a $3.6 million loan and a $2.4 million grant to construct a wastewater treatment plant and modify a pump station. The existing plant, constructed in 1970, is in poor condition. It has corrosion and drainage problems, and is unable to meet regulatory requirements. This project will allow the City of Grand Rivers to provide safe and reliable sanitary sewer service to more than 700 customers in rural Livingston County.
The Town of Betterton, a small rural community on the eastern shore of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, will receive a $1.38 million loan and a $1 million grant to complete the upgrade of a 45-year-old wastewater treatment facility that is functioning at 10 percent of its original capacity. The new facility will provide necessary upgrades to meet safety and environmental standards, including protecting the shellfish harvesting waters along the Sassafras River. There are 339 homes and businesses served by this facility.
The City of Richland Center, Wis., has been selected to receive a $15.7 million loan and a $6.4 million grant to upgrade its 75-year-old treatment system. Rural Development loan and grant funds will be used to finance improvements to the existing site and the construction of a new wastewater treatment facility at a remote site. These upgrades will prevent contamination to area groundwater, improve air quality, enable the city to keep sewer rates affordable and allow for planned growth.
In addition to announcing new investments, USDA is highlighting some Earth Day projects that are completed or are near completion. For example, the rural community of Fanning Springs, Fla., is celebrating Earth Day today by hosting a dedication ceremony at its newly completed wastewater treatment facility.
Rural Development worked with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Suwannee River Water Management District and the local government to protect and restore water quality in the Suwannee Basin. Fanning Springs received a $2.9 million Rural Development loan and a $2.8 million grant in 2010 to construct a wastewater treatment facility. It will provide advanced treatment for nitrogen removal, lead to improved spring and groundwater conditions and restore water quality in the Suwannee Basin.
Funding for each project is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan, grant, or loan/grant agreement. A complete list of water and wastewater award recipients is located here.
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. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom 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.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration -- the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $700 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.