Washington, DC, Jun 16, 2011 -- WASHINGTON, June 16, 2011 – Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager announced today the signing of an agreement that will make it easier to fund water quality improvement projects in rural Alaska villages in a timely manner. Tonsager says 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,” said Tonsager. “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.”
Earlier this 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 going forward.
The MOU is the result of an initiative launched by USDA in April of 2010 through a RAVG Process Improvement Conference which was held in Anchorage. The conference brought together representatives of USDA, DEC, ANTHC, The 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 inter-agency 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 3 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,” said Nordlund.
USDA Rural Development’s mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in homeownership, finances business development, and supports the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development’s web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov.
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