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USDA Invests $5 Million in Rural Electric Infrastructure to Improve Service for More Than 9,500 Residential and Commercial Consumers in Northern Wisconsin

Jessica Mancel
Stevens Point
Release Date

Wisconsin Rural Development State Director Frank Frassetto announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $345.5 million in 20 infrastructure projects to improve rural electric service in 14 states. These loans also include smart grid technology which includes computer applications, two-way communications, geospatial information systems and other tools to increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power systems.

“Investing in modern rural electric infrastructure increases the affordability and reliability of electric power, and helps ensure modern, efficient and safe electric system management which increases economic opportunity and rural prosperity,” Frassetto said. “USDA is here to work collaboratively with rural electric utilities and cooperatives to enable them to enhance infrastructure improvements and provide electric power to those who live and work in rural areas.”

USDA is making the investments through the Electric Infrastructure Loan Program. This program helps finance generation, transmission and distribution projects; system improvements; and energy conservation projects in communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.

In Wisconsin, Bayfield Electric Cooperative (BEC) is receiving a $5 million loan to build 14 miles of line, improve 30 miles and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $198,000 for smart grid projects. BEC is headquartered in Iron River. It provides electric service to an average of 9,500 customers over 1,958 energized miles in all or portions of Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas, Iron, Sawyer and Vilas counties in northern Wisconsin and a portion of Gogebic County on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The service area's economy is diverse with agriculture, logging, fishing and tourism being the primary sources of employment. 

USDA is announcing investments today in rural communities in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wisconsin. They underscore Secretary Perdue’s priority to promote rural economic development by centering around three principles: infrastructure, partnerships and innovation.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/wi.