Today, the City of Powers in rural southwestern Oregon celebrated Earth Day with school children, residents, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, and other partners that are helping the city protect and preserve water quality and a healthy watershed for future generations.
Volunteers from the Coquille Watershed Association, Coos Soil and Water Conservation District, and the U.S. Forest Service joined USDA to lead a variety of interactive educational activities centered on watershed health and restoration.
The celebration featured the announcement of significant USDA funding to complete wastewater system upgrades. This project will improve water quality for the local community, allow for future growth, and improve conditions for declining species of native fish, including shad and Chinook salmon, in the Coquille River.
“This event was a chance for USDA to join our community-based partners and residents by celebrating environmentally friendly growth and development in rural areas,” said USDA State Director Vicki L. Walker, who joined in the activities. “Every day, small communities face the challenges of maintaining and upgrading their infrastructure. Ensuring adequate utilities and other services is absolutely critical for a town to be able to grow, keep its residents safe and healthy, add new business, and develop its economy. A project like this can help a small, rural community thrive into the future.”
The Powers wastewater treatment plant was constructed in 1962 and designed to last 20 years, and the plant is still in use today. As possible, the city has made small-scale upgrades to portions of the system over the years as could be afforded by a tiny rural community of just 689 residents. Despite the city’s efforts to maintain the wastewater treatment plant, the system still needs significant modernizations to ensure clean water supplies, a healthy environment, and adequate community infrastructure for the future.
In 2013, through its Water and Waste Disposal Program, USDA Rural Development provided the City of Powers with a loan of $672,000 and a grant of $4,272,608 to begin work on a low-pressure collection system, a new outfall, and a sludge treatment facility. At today’s event, USDA announced an additional loan of $1,578,000 and a Farm Bill funded grant of $2,812,901 to be used to complete the replacement of the existing treatment plant and to re-purpose the collection system and outfall as a storm drainage system.
“This project is the culmination of years of work by local staff and elected officials in conjunction with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, with the generous assistance of USDA Rural Development and other agencies,” said Powers City Recorder Stephanie Patterson. “The Powers community has taken an historical step forward with the project, which seeks to effectively eliminate inflow and infiltration—the main culprit behind costly and ineffective improvements to the utility system in the past. The City of Powers is proud to welcome USDA and others to share in the monumental announcement of a second round of funding for the project for the citizens of Powers.”
USDA Rural Development delivers more than 40 programs that help rural communities, businesses, and residents develop infrastructure, improve housing availability, and create jobs through a variety of economic development activities.
In addition to support for rural housing and community facilities, USDA Rural Development also provides grants and loan guarantees to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses save energy and install renewables to save money while reducing their overall carbon footprint.
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 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.