Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today celebrated Earth Day by announcing support for projects to improve rural water and wastewater services, promote renewable energy, and promote the efficient use of energy resources.
“I am proud to announce that USDA is providing more than $112 million in loans and grants to help rural communities build and upgrade their water and energy infrastructure systems,” said Vilsack. "Not only do projects such as these help ensure communities have access to clean water and affordable energy, they also create jobs and boost the economy."
USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, “I am pleased that on this Earth Day 2015, USDA Rural Development can have a substantial positive impact on the environment of the rural Downeast community of Calais through investing in these critical upgrades. This Rural Development funding will play a significant role in protecting the historic St. Croix River that we share with our Canadian neighbors and preserve its watershed for recreation and fishing which also supports the area’s active tourism economy.”
The City of Calais has been selected to receive a Water and Waste Disposal Grant of $1,300,000 and Loan in the amount of $500,000 to replace two sewer pump stations that are 45 years old as well as to replace 3,600 feet of existing clay tile sewer pipes. These upgrades will result in reduced runoff and less infiltration of groundwater into the sewer system. These improvements will reduce costs to treat unnecessary flow and help to avoid untreated sewer overflows into the St. Croix River.
The St. Croix River is 71 miles in length and drains into a watershed of 1,500 square miles. The river and its watershed supports populations of Atlantic Salmon, smallmouth bass, and bald eagles that make these marshlands their home.
USDA is providing the funding for water and wastewater infrastructure projects through Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Program (WEP).
Vilsack noted that this year’s Earth Day celebrations also highlight the role of renewable energy systems in maintaining environmental quality. Twenty-five organizations have been selected for energy audit and renewable energy development assistance grants through USDA’s popular Rural Energy for America Program. The grants support programs to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses evaluate energy efficiency systems and determine the most effective and affordable method of incorporating renewable energy technologies into their operations. Eligible recipients are government bodies, utilities and institutions of higher education.
In all, USDA is funding 37 water and wastewater projects and 25 renewable energy projects totaling more than $112 million.
View the list of recipients. Funding for each project is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan, grant, or loan/grant agreement.
Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness about what individuals can do to protect vital natural resources and safeguard the environment. Since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, the event has greatly expanded. Today, citizens and governments in more than 195 countries participate in Earth Day events.
President Obama’s historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger. Under his leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.