Jun 22, 2011

USDA Streamlines Funding Program for Rural Alaskan Water Quality Projects

Efforts will help Alaskan villages gain access to clean water and improved sanitation

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager announced the signing of an agreement that will make it easier to fund water quality improvement projects in rural Alaskan villages in a timely manner. Tonsager said he expects the agreement to streamline efforts to provide clean water and improved sanitation services to the villages, many of which include a majority of Alaska Native families.

“Rural Development is working to improve the quality of sanitation in rural Alaska and we’re committed to doing it without delay,” Tonsager said. “I have seen first-hand the challenges facing residents of Alaska’s villages and this agreement is intended to quickly and effectively fund the village water quality projects that are ready to go.”

Last week, Alaska Rural Development State Director Jim Nordlund signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Alaskan Native Health Consortium (ANTHC) that will streamline the current Rural Alaska Village Grant Program (RAVG). The program provides funding for planning, design and construction of water and wastewater infrastructure in rural communities in Alaska. The MOU outlines the streamlined policies and procedures that will apply when USDA makes grants under the RAVG program.

The MOU is the result of an initiative launched by USDA in April 2010 through an RAVG Process Improvement Conference, which was held in Anchorage, Alaska. The conference brought together representatives of USDA, DEC, ANTHC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Indian Health Service and the Denali Commission to develop ways to improve communication and simplify the application process while maintaining a high level of accountability of grant funds.

The interagency collaboration has produced results throughout the streamlining initiative. In late 2009 and early 2010 USDA invested more than $65 million in RAVG construction and planning projects. As of this month, 11 of the 16 construction projects funded are in active construction and three more are expected to move from design to construction later this summer.

“The sanitary conditions in many rural Alaskan villages are dire and can be attributed directly to the lack of clean, modern water and waste services. USDA is pleased to make additional efforts to ensure that our RAVG program is able to benefit as many native Alaskan families as possible. We thank our Alaskan partners for their input and efforts in formulating our updated process,” Nordlund said.