Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Tuesday celebrated Earth Day by announcing record support for 116 projects that will improve water and wastewater services for rural Americans and benefit the environment. Two Vermont towns, Plainfield and Lyndon, will receive a total of $1.4 million to help the communities install new water lines and make wastewater system upgrades.
“Having reliable, clean and safe water is essential for any community to thrive and grow,” Vilsack said. “I am proud that USDA helps build rural communities from the ground up by supporting water and wastewater infrastructure projects like these. I’m especially proud that we can help communities that are struggling economically and those that have urgent health and safety concerns due to their failing or inadequate utility systems.”
Today’s announcement is USDA’s largest Earth Day investment in rural water and wastewater systems. Nearly $387 million is being awarded to 116 recipients in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Department is providing $150 million in grants through the 2014 Farm Bill plus $237 million in loans and grants from USDA Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Program.
The Town of Plainfield will receive a $551,000 grant and $699,000 loan to complete work on replacing water mains in three critical areas of the town. The Town of Lyndon will receive a $150,000 grant to cover cost overruns on a more than $5 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade that was started in 2011 and also funded by USDA Rural Development grants and loans.
Vermont’s Congressional Delegation, U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy, Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, said: “It is no secret that Vermont, like the rest of the nation, has significant infrastructure needs, from our water and waste water systems, to our roads, schools, energy systems and more. These grants and loans are vitally important in terms of addressing those needs right here in Vermont. USDA-Rural Development support for Vermont communities has helped provide critical clean water infrastructure and supported local budgets. We are pleased that Plainfield and Lyndon will benefit from these funds.”
“These funds will help the residents of Plainfield and Lyndon by both keeping their user rates reasonable and keeping their communities healthy,” said USDA Rural Development State Director for Vermont and New Hampshire Ted Brady.
Climate change in particular is putting more stress on municipal water systems. Many areas around the country have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, declines in snowpack, intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. All of these are placing a fiscal strain on communities – causing them to make more frequent (and often more expensive) repairs and upgrades.
Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness about the role each person can play to protect vital natural resources and safeguard the environment. Since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, the event has expanded to include citizens and governments in more than 195 countries.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s 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. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/NH-VTHome.html.