ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Dec. 16, 2021 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is investing $5,122,493 to build and improve critical infrastructure in rural Alaska. The investments will help expand access to clean water and reliable telecommunication service in people’s homes and businesses in rural communities across the state.
“When we invest in rural infrastructure, we invest in the livelihoods and health of people in rural America,” Vilsack said. “Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is committed to Building a Better America by investing in America’s rural infrastructure, expanding access to broadband, clean drinking water and resilient power infrastructure. The investments we are announcing today will drive the creation of good-paying union jobs and grow the economy sustainably and equitably so that everyone gets ahead for decades to come.”
Throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, USDA is investing $5.2 billion to build and improve critical rural infrastructure in 46 states and Puerto Rico. Vilsack highlighted 359 investments that USDA is making in seven programs designed to help people in rural areas access high-speed internet, clean water and dependable electric power. These programs include Community Connect Grants, Electric Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, Telecommunications Infrastructure Loans and Loan Guarantees, Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, Water and Waste Disposal Loan GuaranteesWater and Waste Disposal Technical Assistance and Training Grants and Water and Waste Disposal Predevelopment Planning Grants.
In Alaska, investments under the Community Connect Grant program include:
- $2,621,725 invested in Interior Telephone Company to construct a 19-mile Fiber-to-the Premises system to benefit 194 residents and 32 businesses in the Port Lions, Kodiak Island Borough, Alaska service area. Subscribers will have access to service of at least 25 Mbps down and up to 3 Mbps up, expanding access to economic, educational, health care, and public safety opportunities in an extremely remote area of Alaska. A Community Center will be constructed next to an already existing Central Office facility Interior Telephone Company owns where residents can access the Internet free of charge for at least two years.
- $1,3547,868 invested in Byte Networking LLC dba Fibre Alaska to construct a 4.7-mile Fiber-to-the Premises system to benefit 430 residents and 16 businesses in the Gustavus, Hoonah-Angoon County, Alaska service area. The existing microwave link providing backhaul to the town will be upgraded. Subscribers will have access to service up to packages up to 50 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up, expanding access to economic, educational, health care, and public safety opportunities. A community center will be provided in an existing building where residents can access the Internet free of charge for at least two years.
Investments made under water and environmental programs include six projects in Alaska:
- $516,200 invested in Zender Environmental Health and Research Group to fund two projects. One grant will provide technical training, including on-site follow-up assistance to achieve Qualified Sampler certification, sampling for exceedances or other thresholds suggestions for further delineation or possible public health precautions; remote assistance to improve financial sustainability of the utility or decrease public health risks associated with utility operation and management; improvement of honey bucket collection services and reduction of associated health risks; and implementation of standardized protocols when shipping out hazardous wastes. Trainings include the State of Alaska Workshop in a box Rural Waste Utility Training; State of Alaska Operator Safety, Backhaul Training; and Two Qualified Sampler Trainings. A second grant will help improve solid waste management.
- $257,000 invested in Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to provide on-site evaluations of 26 Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative community water/sewer systems and prioritize the deficiencies discovered during such evaluations. Rural Development funds will be used to provide annual rate studies for each community and recommend a rate structure to ensure that water/sewer revenues meet expenses to maintain sustainability; on-site training and technical support to the water/sewer operators; schedule off-site training for the operators as needed, both to build skills and maintain necessary certification levels; and coordinate tasks associated with improved energy and operational efficiencies.
- $201,000 invested in Tanana Chiefs Conference to provide technical assistance and training to water operators, utility managers, and council members in Fairbanks, or in a surrounding road service community. Workshop in a Box: Sustainable Management of Rural and Small Systems training will include five classroom sessions and two on-site village visits. Participants will learn assessment techniques and develop a community-driven plan to improve performance in one of ten key management areas.
- $84,600 invested in Maniilaq Association to improve solid waste management scores by five percent through routine technical assistance, solid waste assessments, and community meetings. This grant will help produce sustainable management entities through an integrated solid waste management plan workshop, then establish or update integrated solid waste management plans for each community in the region. The solid waste management plans will address landfill safety, composting, and reduce/reuse/recycle programs and help produce an adept workforce that can sustainably operate, maintain, and manage their landfills.
- $84,100 invested in Alaska State Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development to provide hands-on technical assistance during solid waste management in seven remote rural communities throughout Alaska. This project will be developed to fit each community's capacity and demographics by working with community leaders, landfill operators, and residents.
These investments follow the recent passage of President Biden’s historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and reflect the many ways USDA Rural Development’s programs are helping people, businesses and communities address critical infrastructure needs to help rural America build back better.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/ak.
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