Following up on last week’s announcement by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, USDA-Rural Development (USDA-RD) Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund provided more detail on the rural sanitation grants provided through the Rural Alaska Village Grant (RAVG) program.
Among the announcements made was the total of $12.1 million in the latest round of USDA-RD’s funding for sanitation projects. Five recipients in StrikeForce areas, including the communities of Quinhagak, Shageluk, Nunapitchuk, Buckland, and Akiachak were awarded funds for the planning and construction of projects. These Rural Development funds will help develop water and wastewater systems to improve the health and sanitation circumstances through removal of a variety of dire sanitation conditions. In addition, the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) were awarded funds for technical assistance. The technical assistance is essential for promoting the sustainability and successful operation and maintenance of rural Alaskan utility systems.
Vilsack visited Alaska in 2009 and saw first- hand the significant need for sanitation systems in rural Alaskan communities. Through meetings with community leaders and program partners, he recognized the need to make Rural Development’s sanitation programs more accessible.
"State Director Jim Nordlund was instrumental in promoting the effort of program improvements after my 2009 visit," said Vilsack. The effort of bringing together partner organizations, including ANTHC, DEC, and the Indian Health Service, resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding that streamlined the application process. The new process has been successful and has resulted in roughly $163 million being funded in the RAVG program since 2010."
"Although there is still work to be done in rural Alaska through USDA-RD and its partner agencies, I am amazed at the tremendous strides we have collaboratively made over the last five years. We are and will continue to be dedicated to providing infrastructure that improves the health and safety of rural Alaskan residents," said Vilsack.
"Through coordinated efforts with program partners, we were able develop a streamlined process that resulted in effective delivery and accountability for the program. The culmination of the efforts will be a new standalone regulation for the Rural Alaska Village Grant program," said Nordlund. "The proposed regulation was published for public comment in December 2013 and is anticipated for final release in Federal Fiscal Year 2015."