Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced USDA is investing nearly $60.5 million – the single largest dollar obligation in Ohio Rural Development history – to modernize and improve rural water service in Belmont County.
“Modern and reliable water infrastructure is foundational to quality of life and prosperity in any community,” Hazlett said. “Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in improving rural water systems so these communities can support economic growth now and for generations to come.”
The Belmont County Water System encompasses more than 500 miles of water lines. In addition to the 9,700 rural residents it directly serves, the system provides water to 23,300 residents through wholesale agreements with the Villages of Belmont, Bethesda, Flushing, New Athens, Bellaire, and Morristown, along with the City of St. Clairsville, and the Tri-County Water Authority area of Jefferson County.
Belmont County has garnered national media attention as the potential location of a multi-billion-dollar natural gas ethane (“Cracker”) plant near Dilles Bottom, Ohio. This water improvement project will serve as the platform for Belmont County to absorb new demands for future development.
USDA is providing the funding – a $45,509,000 direct loan combined with a $14,987,000 grant – through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. It can be used to finance drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems for rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents. Funds will help build a new, 6-million gallon-per-day water treatment plant and a new administration building with laboratory. The water system also will benefit from technical upgrades such as state-of-the-art meter reading and water-quality monitoring.
In Fiscal Year 2018, Congress provided a historic level of funding for water and wastewater infrastructure. The 2018 Omnibus spending bill includes $5.2 billion for USDA loans and grants, up from $1.8 billion in FY 2017. The bill also directs Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to make investments in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.
Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.
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.