ST. PAUL, Minn. , April 22 -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development agency has issued the following news release:
USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer today celebrated Earth Day by highlighting eight projects, an investment totaling over $38.6 million , that will improve water and wastewater services for rural Americans and benefit the environment.
"Having reliable, clean and safe water is essential for any community to thrive and grow," Landkamer said. " Rural Development helps build rural communities from the ground up by supporting water infrastructure projects like these. It's especially important that we help communities struggling economically and those that have urgent health and safety concerns due to their failing water systems. Thanks to the passing of the Agriculture Act of 2014 (the "Farm Bill"), we were able to fund projects that may not have otherwise had the opportunity. "
Today's announcement is in coordination with USDA's largest nationwide Earth Day investment in rural water and wastewater systems. Nearly $387 million is being awarded to 116 recipients in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico . The Department is providing $150 million in grants through the 2014 Farm Bill plus $237 million in loans and grants from USDA's Water and Environmental Program.
Climate change in particular is putting more stress on municipal water systems. Many areas around the country have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, declines in snowpack, intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. All of these are placing fiscal strains on communities - causing them to make more frequent (and often more expensive) repairs and upgrades.
In addition to the loan and grant funding offered through USDA's Water and Environmental Program, this year was especially noteworthy due to the extra grant funding made available through the Emergency and Imminent Community Water Assistance Grant Program of the 2014 Farm Bill. Without the support of members in Congress , today's announcement would not be possible.
Among the eight Minnesota projects that received Farm Bill funding, the city of Verndale is receiving just under $2.2 million to replace the damaged half of its existing wastewater collection system, extend the collection system to include local homes still on individual septic systems, and install a new main pump station. Once completed, the city's wastewater treatment facility will provide safe and sustainable wastewater management for Verndale's 602 residents and the surrounding county of Wadena .
Morgan, Minn. is receiving a $12.4 million loan and an $8.5 million grant to rehabilitate its sanitary and storm water sewer systems. Localized flooding common in the spring required a stabilization pond system and replacement of all in-street utility systems. The Morgan project will serve nearly 1,000 residents and businesses and protect local ecosystems.
The city of Maynard, Minn. , is receiving a $2.9 million loan/grant combination to provide the city a safe, sustainable wastewater treatment system. The deteriorated condition of the existing wastewater treatment plant, has led to untreated wastewater being released into ditches during overly wet conditions. Once completed, this project will ensure Maynard's ecosystems are no longer at risk of untreated run-off wastewater, and residents will enjoy healthier living conditions.
In Herman, the city will use $850,000 in loans and $1.8 million in grants to replace parts of its water treatment system that are contaminated with arsenic. The city will drill a new well and construct a new water treatment plant that will include arsenic, iron, and manganese removal along with chemical addition for disinfection and fluoridation. A new water storage tank is also included in the project.
Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness about protecting vital natural resources and safeguarding the environment. Since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, the event has expanded to include citizens and governments in more than 195 countries. Landkamer will visit several of the projects in today's announcement during the week of April 28, 2014 , in celebration of Earth Day .
Rural Development 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. Since 2009, Rural Development has invested over $4.1 billion in rural communities throughout Minnesota .
For more information on our programs, and for a complete list of today's Earth Day projects, please visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/mn .
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