EDITORIAL by Patricia Dominguez, USDA Rural Development State Director
Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap is a pilot program between the U.S Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to provide targeted technical assistance to support and identify resources to 11 participating areas in the United States, two of which are in New Mexico in pursuing federal funding opportunities. [MNRSO1] The pilot is the direct result of the feedback that many federal agencies received from our communities.
USDA and the EPA listened to our community partners and now it was time to select our pilot sites. The Pueblo of Santo Domingo would ultimately be one of our choices. Initially, to begin the process we held a kick-off meeting with the Pueblo last month.
The goal of the meeting was to introduce the teams from both agencies and the technical assistant providers to our partners and to discuss the Community Assessment steps and then the Community Solutions Plan. This meeting was a chance for the Pueblo to share its goals with us and show how this project would benefit their people. We listened to an in-depth presentation, provided by Phoebe Suina, who is not only a member of the Pueblo but also staff of High Watermark, an Environmental consulting firm. She showed us images of a severely broken and inadequate sewer infrastructure.
Now it was our job to apply the pre-planning that has been done and begin implementing solutions. Santo Domingo gave us the foundation on which we would build their community solutions plan.
As we openly discussed next steps, the energy of the room was hopeful. The community plan had a phased approach to the project, added new connections and will hopefully add business and economic development opportunities for the community.
We are very excited to partner with the Pueblo of Santo Domingo and as our name implies, we want to serve rural communities and help them to achieve their goals as they plan for the future.