Anchorage, Alaska, Apr 22, 2013 -- 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.
Concurrently, USDA-Rural Development (RD) Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund announced today the completion of a water project in the community of Kasaan. The announcement, made on Earth Day, highlights Rural Development’s efforts to improve environmental and health conditions in rural Alaskan communities.
“This water system project is critical because communities across the state should have access to reliable, clean and safe water that meet necessary drinking water standards,” said Nordlund. “The water treatment plant and water storage tank now provide quality drinking water to the residents of Kasaan,” he added.
The funding for the project was provided by USDA-RD’s Rural Alaska Village Grant (RAVG) program. The project is another successful culmination in the partnerships between USDA-RD, the State of Alaska, the Indian Health Service, and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC). The new infrastructure was put into operation after a final inspection on March 20th.
“The community of Kasaan needed a larger water plant that would be able to meet our current and future demands plus meet new Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The USDA-RD helped supply the necessary funds to build a larger water plant and new storage tank in a safer location. The community of Kasaan will now have a safer and more adequate supply of drinking water,” said Kasaan City Mayor, Audrey L. Escoffon.
In all, 43 water and wastewater projects in 32 states received funding. 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, organized through the efforts of the late Wisconsin Senator and conservationist Gaylord Nelson, the event has expanded to include participation by citizens and governments in more than 195 countries.
Southeast Alaska, where Kasaan is located, is one of the areas recently identified for USDA’s new “StrikeForce” initiative. The economy and jobs in Southeast have been affected by the downturn of the timber industry in the area. Rural Development and other USDA agencies are working to promote efforts for partnering with rural communities and regions on projects that promote economic growth.
For more information on the USDA-RD’s RAVG program, please visit: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/UWP-AlaskanVillage.html.
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.